If all goes as expected, Nick Arsenault’s children will spend their high school years learning in their native language in a new, modern Évangéline school.
Arsenault has a 10-month-old, a child in pre-kindergarten and one going into Grade 2, all at École Évangéline in Abram-Village.
“For me, this is the most important building in the community,” said Arsenault, who is also the executive director of the Évangéline school/community council.
“It’s reassuring as a parent to know that ‘OK, there’s going to be a great facility for my kids to grow up in away from home, to learn in the French language and Acadian culture.”
At an event in Dieppe, N.B., last week, part of the ongoing Congrès Mondial Acadien, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King announced the province, during this mandate, would commit to replacing aging École Évangéline.
King is also P.E.I.’s minister of Acadian and francophone affairs.
“Government is committed to building a new École Évangéline over the course of this mandate,” said the premier’s office in a statement.
“We’re hoping to better define this work over the coming months in consultation with the French Language School Board.”
The president of that board, Gilles Benoit, knows it is early days on this project, but a commitment to replace the school is a crucial first step.
Benoit said that the French Language School Board’s preliminary discussions with King’s government, which has only been in power since May, were encouraging from the start.
Also, since King made the announcement, the provincial cabinet has taken a group tour of the school and engineers are getting ready to evaluate the facility.
The importance of having a modern school in the Évangéline region cannot be understated, said Benoit.
The facility also houses the French Language School Board and community space.
“At one time there was only that French school standing up for all French education on P.E.I. All the others had closed or amalgamated. Only Évangéline stood up,” he said.
“So, we felt it was important that Évangéline was able to keep their students from kindergarten to (Grade) 12, so this is gonna make sure (that will be the case) for years to come.”
Because this project is in such an early stage it’s hard to surmise exactly what will be included, but Benoit and others in the community are confident the new school will continue Évangéline’s legacy as a dual-use education facility/community hub.
The federal government has already committed funding in that regard.
Gabriel Arsenault is the chairman of a community working group pushing for renewal of the school.
“It was a very pleasant surprise,” he said of the announcement.
The oldest part of the facility was built in the 1960s and the newest section was built in the late 1970s.
“There’s still a lot of details to iron out, but now with the government commitment, I think it’s going to be easier to go to the next step. Hopefully, at the end of the process we’re going to have a new, modern, strong centre Éducation Évangéline,” said Gabriel, switching to his native French at the end of his sentence.