Saint-Sauveur school will have no students in September
In 1997, a government plan to close schools in northeastern community sparked outrage and clashes with RCMP
Though the school is still officially open, not one student is registered at La Découverte school in Saint-Sauveur on the Acadian Peninsula for the upcoming school year.
The government backed off on closing the school in 1997, when a community protest turned violent after the RCMP's riot squad was called in and parents were tear-gassed.
However, this time around, the possible closure is not facing much opposition, according to Pierre Lavoie, the director general of the francophone north-east school district.
"At a certain point, when there aren't a lot of students, there aren't a lot of resources. In order to provide a quality education to the students, we were better off sending the kids to the Allardville school. It was a joint agreement between the parents and the district," Lavoie said.
Many students transferred
Only 23 students attended the school in Saint-Saveur this past winter. Lavoie says a meeting was organized to let the parents know the situation was not looking good.
It's no one's fault. We just have to accept it.- Pierre Lavoie , director general of the francophone north-east school district
"Schools that experience a decrease in services because of decreasing student population, we ask the school to organize a meeting with the parent-teacher association in order to make them aware of the situation so no nasty surprises await them in September."
After one of those meetings in May, the district started receiving requests to transfer students from La Découverte to Ecole Francois-Xavier-Daigle in Allardville, which prompted another meeting with parents.
"The discussion led to parents saying 'We might want to transfer them the next year or in January 2017' ... We communicated that if that was the solution, they were better off transferring the students in September, because that's when they integrate into the school," Lavoie said, adding that almost all the parents were in agreement.
Réginald Duguay's daughter attends La Découverte and he was involved in the fight to keep the school open in 1997. he says the parents face a tough decision this time around.
"At the end of the year, the number of students decreased dramatically. That's why parents faced the obvious, that transferring their children to Allardville was easier and more viable," he said.
Guy Lanteigne, a Saint-Sauveur resident who lobbied to keep the school open, said he was profoundly saddened by the news.
'I'm proud to have fought to save La Découverte .' - Guy Lanteigne , Saint-Sauveur resident
"I'm proud to have fought to save La Découverte and my community as long as I could," he said.
The future of the school is still unclear. Lavoie said the district education council has been informed of the situation and supports closing the school, however a viability study must be done before making a recommendation to the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.
"They will definitely find an empty school in September, but it's up to them to decide whether to close the school or not," Lavoie said.
"It's no one's fault, we just have to accept it and do what's best for the students' education."