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Summerside French language school expansion snagged as community, province disagree

['Ecole Sur Mer in Summerside.']
['Ecole Sur Mer in Summerside.']

A committee set up to consider designs for the expansion of École-sur-Mer in Summerside has hit a stumbling block over price.

The group, which is made up of government and community representatives, had been meeting regularly to plan the addition of high school grade facilities to the school. However, the committee recently stopped meeting because it could not agree on a design – or a price tag.  

The province has approved a $5-million budget for the project. However, a counter proposal by La Commission scolaire de langue française (French language school board) representatives on the committee was for a facility that would cost $13 million.

Brad Samson, director of administrative and financial services for board, said that its proposal was to build a high school addition to École-sur-Mer that would offer students almost all the same educational opportunities offered at an English language high school.

“If we want to integrate all those elements that are normally found in a high school, in order to offer parity or similar circumstances at École-sur-Mer as a high school as you would in other high schools, it would cost $13 million,” said Samson.

However, in a statement issued to the Journal Pioneer, the province maintained that the original $5-million budget would provide sufficient facilities to meet the needs of high school students at the school.

“The amount of $5 million was determined by the Education and Transportation departments to deliver most all of the criteria the (French school board) asked for. This will allow the school to deliver the required high school curricular outcomes, including the physical education curriculum.”

The province singled out the physical education component because a second gym, this one compatible with high school sports, was one of the items the board had requested. The school’s current gym is designed for elementary grades.

Samson said that while the two sides might appear far apart, the board is confident they will be able to reach an agreement.

“Talks are being scheduled to try to resolve the issue,” he said.  

“The board … did request that the school members of the construction committee revisit the plan and try to arrive at some sort of, what I would consider, a compromise.”

According to the province there are currently four Grade 9 students, six Grade 10 students and six Grade 11 students attending École-sur-Mer.

The school board decided two years ago to incrementally start adding high school grades to the school, even though it doesn’t have proper facilities to house them. It had been pushing for the addition of high school grades for a number of years. Many of its students were opting to join the English school system rather than travelling to Abram-Village to attend high school in French.

A 2000 Supreme Court of Canada ruling cemented the right of Acadian parents in the Summerside area to have a school for their children to be educated in their language.


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