New Brunswick

Overcrowding at Miramichi school neglected by district council, says admin

The administration of Carrefour Beausoleil in Miramichi says the district school board is neglecting the area’s lone francophone school in favour of the southern urban centres.

Carrefour Beausoleil lone Miramichi-area school

École Carrefour Beausoleil is being neglected by the school district education council, says the executive director of the community centre that houses the K-12 school in Miramichi. (Radio-Canada)

The administration of Carrefour Beausoleil in Miramichi says the district school board is neglecting the area's lone francophone school in favour of the larger, southern centres.

Marc Allain, executive director of the community centre that houses the K-12 École Carrefour Beausoleil, said the education council for Francophone School District South is ignoring the school's growing overcrowding issue — and its constitutional obligations — by shuffling an expansion plan down the infrastructure priority list.

The plan was dropped from third to fifth on the education council's list, behind new school projects for Saint John and Fredericton, he said, adding there is a need in those cities but nowhere near as pressing.

Allain said lack of space at the school has been an issue for more than a decade and nearly half of local students eligible to study in French are in the anglophone system.

"It's very difficult not to feel neglected and it's very difficult not to feel that the district has a very strong bias for the southern part of its territory to the detriment of the northern part of the territory," he told CBC News.

"We really, really feel like we're getting left behind."

Marc Allain is the executive director of the Carrefour Beausoleil community centre in Miramichi. (Radio-Canada)

A parent committee has been formed to drum up support within the Miramichi area, and the centre is seeking a meeting with the education minister and is even considering legal options.

"Failure is not an option," he said.

Minority language education rights

Allain said the situation is forcing the school to defy section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees minority language education rights.

A 2016 study commissioned by Carrefour Beausoleil reported 48.5 per cent of students eligible to attend the school were in anglophone schools.

"They are there for a lot of reasons, but most of them are tied to our lack of space," he said.

There are 274 students attending the school this year.

École Carrefour Beausoleil has been grappling with lack of space for more than a decade, according to Marc Allain. (Radio-Canada)

Allain said classrooms are full and there is little space for support staff and extra-curricular activities. The proposed expansion would likely see one or two additions built off a wing of the centre, he said.

The district education council said its list of priorities is established according to an objective mechanism.

"We do studies and we make sure, when we have capital projects, to make decisions based on evidence, such as the number of students, the number of premises that exist, the results of demographic studies," Paul Demers, council president, told Radio-Canada, speaking in French.

Demers said the decisions are done in an open and transparent way.

He added the need for extra space exists in every corner of the district.

Allain said the district provided a mobile classroom two years ago, but that is also at capacity.

More kids on the way

Allain said the district has studied the larger centres in the massive district, which covers Saint John, Moncton, Fredericton and Miramichi, but it hasn't studied the northern most region.

He said it's clear overcrowding will continue in the coming years. The centre also houses a daycare, which currently has about 100 children. Thirty of them will make the jump to kindergarten in September, enough for a second class, he said.

"Right now in the school that class does not exist," he said. "Where are they going to put those kids? We have no idea."

Another 40 kids are expected to make the jump the following school year — and that's before outside registration, he said.

With files from Radio-Canada and Colin McPhail

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