Acadian school board sees enrolment surge

The province’s francophone school board is bucking the declining enrolment trend that is plaguing all other school districts in Nova Scotia.

Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial is the only school board in N.S. with increasing student numbers

Malou Dery teaches a class in French literature at École du Carrefour in Dartmouth. (CBC)

The province’s Acadian and francophone school board is bucking the declining enrolment trend that is plaguing all other school districts in Nova Scotia.

Officials with the Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial say increasing publicity, a strong academic reputation, smaller schools, immigration and a renewed interest in Acadian culture and bilingualism are driving the strong student numbers.

At École du Carrefour in Dartmouth, principal Daniel Côté said he expects enrolment at the Grade 7 to 12 school to jump by at least seven per cent come September.

Some of the students at the school have Acadian parents who cannot speak French, but want their children to reclaim their francophone heritage.

"It’s very nice that these parents are supporting their kid getting back in francophone culture, to open more doors for their kids by the time they leave high school," Côté said.

"It opens the door for the future, to keep living in French for these students and bring the French back in the family."

Enrolment at the Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial has jumped by 24 per cent in the last decade and now sits at more than 5,100 students.

The board runs 21 schools across the province. Demand is so high that in September the conseil will take over Gertrude Parker Elementary School in Lower Sackville, which has been declared surplus by the Halifax Regional School Board.

Grade 12 student Nicholas Doiron says there are advantages to being bilingual when searching for a job. (CBC)

And it's not just in the metro area. Schools in Sydney, Truro, Bridgewater and Pomquet are also seeing more students.

The board is still the smallest in Nova Scotia, but not for long. Its increasing student body means it will soon surpass some rural boards.

This comes as all other Nova Scotia school boards suffer a steady decline. Overall enrolment in the province has dropped from 145,369 students in 2004-05 to 120,881 this year, according to provincial statistics.

Francophone students and the children of parents who were taught in French are entitled to be educated in French in Canada.

Students like Nicholas Doiron say there are advantages to growing up fully bilingual.

"It’s very much needed to have people who can speak in English and in French properly, especially if you look at federal jobs," said Doiron, who is in Grade 12.

"But a big part of me continuing education in French, which is also shared by my parents, was really just the culture and identity. It’s really my background, my heritage and my roots."

Some of the increases at the francophone board are being driven by immigration of French-speaking students from the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

Karim Amedjkouh is from Algeria. He teaches history at École du Carrefour.

"É​cole du Carrefour, for me, it’s not just a school," he said. "It’s more than that. For me it’s a family."