Nfld. & Labrador

Galway 'unanimous' pick for new St. John's-area francophone school

A proposed new K-12 francophone school and community centre should be open for September 2022, the province's French school board says.

Location makes sense to serve Avalon's francophone parents: school board director

Galway has been selected as the proposed site for a new K-12 French school in the St. John's area. (CBC)

A new French school planned to open in 2022 has chosen Galway, a site the school board says serves the growing francophone population of the western Avalon Peninsula.

"The 2016 Census has shown that right holders are located in more of the west Avalon," said Kim Christianson, director of education with the Conseil scolaire francophone provincial de Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador (CSFP). 

Population appears set to continue growing in that direction, Christianson said, and putting the planned K-12 school and community centre in Galway should better serve students overall.

I'm not sure that I would put my child on a bus for an hour one way to go to French school, even if I wanted it.- Kim Christianson

Currently, some students are travelling as much as 95 minutes one way to attend l'École des Grands-Vents on Ridge Road, or the Grade 7-12 l'École Rocher-du-Nord which has temporarily located on Ricketts Road in St. John's in the former Holy Cross school.

"I'm not sure that I would put my child on a bus for an hour one way to go to French school, even if I wanted it," she said.

Kim Christianson, director of education of the Conseil scolaire francophone provincial, says the west end makes sense as the best location for a new French school. (Philippe Grenier/Radio-Canada)

The location has been studied by CSFP trustees, she said, and public consultations on a potential location have been done, including one that finished in November.

"The decision was difficult but it was a unanimous decision, and now we are presenting this to the ministry of education, and transportation and works as well," she said.

New school needed for 2022

The search for a site began when money was allocated in the last provincial budget for its construction. A new K-12 French school is needed for the St. John's area because the existing one, built in 2004, was overcrowded. The agreement to use the former Holy Cross building for older grades was set for five years, Christianson said.

L’École des Grands-Vents currently serves students from Kindergarten to Grade 6. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

"We have to be out of that school by June 2022," she said.

The CSFP consulted the City of St. John's and several other municipalities to inquire about vacant land sites large enough to construct the planned K-12 school and community centre. The proposed Galway site fit the school board's criteria, including for a potential site size of seven acres, in addition to making sense geographically, Christianson said.

Francophone students from Grade 7 to Grade 12 are currently attending l'École Rocher-du-Nord in the former Holy Cross school. (Philippe Grenier/CBC)

In addition to the planned school and community centre, Christianson said they are also in talks to build a recreation centre near the school site.

"We will be working with the City of St. John's to develop that project as well."

In a letter sent to Christianson, Mayor Danny Breen said the city has identified "the need to develop a community centre/pool in the west end of the city," but has no timeline.

Breen said city council could offer no further commitments, but was open to partnering with the French school district.

The board is now working with the government to plan for a school on the proposed site, and a consultant should be hired shortly to continue that work on the infrastructure side ahead of a land purchase. 

If all goes as planned, the building should be ready for the summer of 2022, Christianson said, with students beginning class at the new school in September 2022.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Daniel MacEachern

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