French school coming to Revelstoke next fall

After years of work, a French language school will be coming to Revelstoke starting this coming September.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Caroline Grenier, the parent who has been spearheading the effort for a French school in Revelstoke. “I’m trying to contain my excitement until it opens in September. As long as we keep the numbers, so far so good.”

A French school in Revelstoke has been the dream for some parents in Revelstoke for years. In 2006, a group of parents pushed for French immersion in the local school district only to have the board of trustees decide not to implement the program in 2008.

Now, with a few details to be worked out, French education in Revelstoke will be a reality starting with the next school year, with 14 children registered to attend the new school in kindergarten and grade one.

“We are still looking for a location but we have a couple of very good prospects and from the point of view of this day I can say it’s looking very good for us to open a new program here in Sept. 2011,” said Pierre Claveau, a spokesperson with the Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Brittanique (French Education Authority of B.C.; CSF).

A meeting is being held on Wednesday, Feb. 16 to confirm registration and discuss items like school materials and the school’s name.

The new school in Revelstoke will be the 39th French school in the province.

The school will start off with kindergarten and grade one and will expand as students progress through the system.

“As the kids go from one grade to the other, we expand the school,” said Claveau. “If we have sufficient space we might offer early childhood programs.”

Currently, space is being sought to house the school. The location would need classroom space as well as indoor and outdoor recreation areas.

“We’re looking for space that will be affordable, that will be comfortable for the kids and parents will be happy to go to,” said Claveau.

Anne Cooper, superintendent of the Revelstoke school district, said she has been contacted by the CSF about renting out space in one of the existing schools.

The establishment of a French school could have an impact on the local district as it will take away some students from what is an already declining enrolment.

“The more students we lose for whatever reasons, the more likely we have split classes because you simply don’t have enough at the grade level,” said Alan Chell, chair of the board of trustees. “If we’re losing 14 students it will have an impact on us. We’ll just have to plan as best we can.”

Cooper said the extent of the impact would depend on whether students are mostly from one neighbourhood or are spread throughout the city.

Claveau said the addition of the school in Revelstoke will be a benefit to the local economy by attracting more Francophones to the community.

He cited the enthusiasm and hard work parents put into bringing the school here as a factor of the board deciding to start it.

Grenier said the parents she has heard from are very excited by the news. One new parent who is happy is Sarra Dupuis. She said she was thinking about moving back to Quebec for a few years but because of the French school, she and her family will now be staying for good.

While Revelstoke’s Francophone population is larger than people think, Claveau said the school will likely remain fairly small but that the CSF operates numerous other small schools in the province and is required to do so by law when there is demand.

“We’re not going to have a Cadillac, we’re just offering a system and a program,” he said. “The enthusiasm of parents to help, to contribute, to be there is, for us, very important.

“In Revelstoke, the parents are very enthusiastic, very inventive and have done everything they want to do very professionally for us to have this program.

“This is why we’re happy to be there because we know we’re supported by the parents.”