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New French school, École La-Belle-Cloche, opens in Rollo Bay

Marise Chapman, principal at École La-Belle-Cloche, stands beside the venerable bell of Rollo Bay on display in the new French school, during the school’s official opening on Friday.
Marise Chapman, principal at École La-Belle-Cloche, stands beside the venerable bell of Rollo Bay on display in the new French school, during the school’s official opening on Friday. - Katie Smith

Rollo Bay, P.E.I. – She waited for more than a decade, but Emma Dixon can finally attend the new French school in Eastern Kings, if only briefly.

The Grade 12 student from east of Souris has been attending École La-Belle-Cloche since kindergarten and heard talk about a new facility throughout her entire school career.

Dixon said that after all this time, she was excited to see the final product.

“It’s amazing, it’s been a long 12 years so I’m really happy,” she said Friday during the facility’s official opening on Friday. “I’m happy to get at least two months in the school, it’s better than nothing.”

Dixon, along with students, parents, teachers, politicians and members of the community, gathered at the new facility, located on the site of the former Rollo Bay school, on May 25 to officially open the new École La-Belle-Cloche, a K-12 school for up to 150 students, and Pavillon de l’Est, a community centre. The facility also houses a provincial early years centre, Château des Étoiles, which offers full-day and after school programs.

The original École La-Belle-Cloche, which opened in 2003 for 14 students in grades one to three, was located in an old repurposed facility in Souris. After outgrowing the space, the school and community centre moved to the former Fortune Consolidated School in 2009.

“We didn’t have a shop or any kind of cooking class, so there were a lot of classes students couldn’t take because they weren’t available,” she said. “But now it opened a bunch of new doors and different possibilities.”
-Emma Dixon

Construction of the 45,000 square foot facility was supported by funding of $6.7 million and $2.4 million from the provincial and federal governments, respectively.

Grade 9 students Craig Steadman, left, and Jake Crandall, both from St. Peter’s, stand out front of the new French school and community centre in Eastern Kings, which is home to École La-Belle-Cloche and Paillon de l’Est, during the building’s official opening on May 25.
Grade 9 students Craig Steadman, left, and Jake Crandall, both from St. Peter’s, stand out front of the new French school and community centre in Eastern Kings, which is home to École La-Belle-Cloche and Paillon de l’Est, during the building’s official opening on May 25.

On April 19, staff and students moved into the new facility, and principal Marise Chapman couldn’t be happier.

“This is incredible to bring the whole community in today,” she said, adding a lot of groups went through to take a look at the new building, and a pancake breakfast was held earlier in the day.

Related: Renovations continue on French first-language school

With the addition of a new industrial lab, students will now be able to participate in home economics and shop, and there’s also a new music room, Chapman said.

“We were practicing those skills, but in a very different setting, and I just find right now everything’s flourished,” she said. “Everything was budding and now they’re just really taking ahold of life.”

Chapman said she thinks the new school will help with student and teacher retention.

“People are happy to come in and happy to learn here, and I can probably hold on to my students,” she said, adding in the past students might attend a different school because it had something her school didn’t offer. “I just think that the building will help us hold on to most of them.”

Dixon, who graduates in June and is attending UPEI in the fall, said while she won’t get to take advantage of the new opportunities the new facility offers, she’s excited for the students coming up.

“We didn’t have a shop or any kind of cooking class, so there were a lot of classes students couldn’t take because they weren’t available,” she said. “But now it opened a bunch of new doors and different possibilities.”

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