New Francophone school planned for West Edmonton as part of Alberta government budget

Click to play video: 'New francophone school planned for West Edmonton'
New francophone school planned for West Edmonton
WATCH: The Alberta government announced 13 new school projects for Edmonton with one of them being a francophone school. The Conseil Scolaire Centre-Nord school division says they'll be taking a unique approach combining public and catholic education under the same roof. As Kabi Moulitharan reports, it's a win for Edmonton's Francophone community. – Mar 2, 2024

As part of 13 new Edmonton-area school projects funded in the Alberta government’s 2024 budget, one will be francophone.

Conseil scholaire Centre-Nord was given funding to plan for a new grade 7 to 12 school in West Edmonton.

“This is great news for us. We’ll be able to cater to a huge part of our clientele that is not necessarily having an option right now in West Edmonton so this is really good news for us,” Conseil scholar Centre-Nord superintendent Robert Lessard told Global News.

The school board already operates a French Catholic elementary school, L’École Notre-Dame, on the west side. Once students reach grade seven, they would have to commute to south-central Edmonton, École Joseph-Moreau, to continue francophone Catholic programming.

“The kids have to travel long distances to get to the junior high and high school options that are more centralized in Edmonton. So having this campus out west will certainly help us to keep our kids in our schools,” Lessard said.

Story continues below advertisement

The idea is to break ground near 178th Street and 76 Avenue. Most of the area is green space with parks and soccer fields.

Conseil scholaire Centre-Nord is hoping to maximize the space by providing both public and catholic options.

Lessard believes this two-in-one deal with cut down on design, construction, and resource costs.

“You’re building two schools with basically the same building envelope, but you’re separating programming and of course distinct features,” he said. “This campus allows us to bring the kids to one location but have both programming available to them,” he added.

Jo-Anne Nolette has kids in fifth and third grades who currently attend École Notre-Dame. She said commuting to École Joseph-Moreau by bus would take nearly an hour. A school close by would be ideal for her.

“It just adds a lot to our transportation and our time,” Nolette explained. “Having a school on the West End now for junior high to high school is like the best news,” she added.

The school board says they’ll be looking for parent input in the planning process. Once planning is approved, they will then need funding for design and construction before breaking ground.

Nolette is aware it could take years before this school is built. She understands it may be too late for student in grade five, but believes her child in grade three may still have a chance.

Story continues below advertisement

If they don’t, she’s still thrilled for the neighborhood.

It doesn’t really change for me because it means the opportunities there for parents after us. So, it definitely helps to grow the community and to have accessibility for all the other parents who come after us. So overall,  it’s a win for for other parents in our community,” she explained.

Conseil scholaire Centre-Nord board chair Tanya Saumaure said there is a need to support francophone Albertans based on results from a 2021 Statistics Canada Census report that shows there are roughly 17,000 students in Edmonton with French backgrounds that are eligible for instruction in the minority language.

Saumaure says with their board stretching around north-central Alberta, their findings show they could help around 19,000 students.

“That census confirms that we do have lots of rights-holders here in Edmonton and, in surrounding area,” Saumaure explained. “We’ve always known that there’s a big potential. But for the first time ever we have a black on on white,” she added.

According to the census report, a rights-holder is a person who can exercise their constitutional right to enroll their child in an official language minority school in Canada (an English-language school in Quebec or a French-language school outside Quebec).

Eligibility as a rights-holder includes if one parent of a child has French as a mother tongue, if one parent attended a French-language school in Canada, or a sibling of a child is attended a French-language school in Canada.

Story continues below advertisement

“We finally have the tools, to go forward and and ask for what we deserve and what we have rights to,” she added.

Lessard believes there are francophone-Edmontonians who want this option, but don’t have the opportunity.

“We have projections that show there might be close to 19,000 students that would be eligible to Francophone education in the city of Edmonton. The problem is they don’t have access to schools in their neighbourhoods and their areas,” Lessard said.

Sponsored content