French school board picks skate park site for future school

The French school board has selected the site of Riverdale's skate park for a future high school. The Yukon government gave the board three options to choose from.

The French school board has selected the site of Riverdale’s skate park for a future high school.

The Yukon government gave the board three options to choose from, two of which included building attachments to the old and new F.H. Collins Secondary School.

But at a public consultation held last summer, parents, teachers and students in the francophone community indicated they were strongly against any kind of annex or attachment.

The parcel of land that currently holds the Second Haven Skatepark was the only option that would allow a standalone school.

If built, it would be the sixth school in Riverdale.

School board president Ludovic Gouaillier said it’s just the first step in building a new school, an idea the board first proposed in 2007.

“It answers some of our concerns as it would be in a central location and easily accessible,” he said.

“It’s also close to other schools and services in the downtown area. In that location, students could foster relationships with some of their friends at F.H. Collins.

“They really wanted their own space.”

As it stands, students and staff are running out of room at Ecole Emilie Tremblay.

In January, the president of the Emilie Tremblay parents’ committee said cramped classroom conditions were a contributing factor to the decrease in retention of high school students.

The Grade 7-8 class at Academie Parhelie had taken up the art, music and home economic classrooms, said Sylvie Painchaud.

Meanwhile, students in the Grade 9-10 and 11-12 classes were studying in portables set up by the government.

“We needed that (new) school yesterday,” Gouaillier said.

“The situation has affected the morale at the school because there’s no space left to take from. We’ve been losing a record number of students this year.”

Yukon’s Education Minister Doug Graham said he would take the request back to his caucus colleagues for permission to go ahead with the construction.

The department is also actively consulting with the city to determine where a new skate park could be built, he added.

“And we’ve also been talking with them because they have some concerns about the traffic flow in that area with the increase in vehicles and buses,” he said.

“One commitment we did make was that nothing would happen on that site until such a time when the skateboarders are relocated and we have a new skate park up and running.

“It’s simply not fair to cut them out of their facility and not have something else for them.”

Resources Minister Scott Kent said both he and Graham had been in touch with the Skate for Life Alliance to explain the impact of the school board’s decision.

But it’s still too early to talk about other sites in the city where a new skate park could be built, Kent added.

“One thing the skate board association mentioned is they would like to see it built on existing transit routes,” he said.

“So we’ll make sure that will form a pillar of the site we choose.”

The Yukon government and French school board remain locked in a long-standing legal battle.

In 2009 the French school board claimed the Yukon government had withheld funds and wasn’t giving it control over its staff and admissions.

In 2011, the Supreme Court of Yukon ordered the territorial government to build a new high school for francophones within two years.

But last year, the Yukon Court of Appeal found that ruling may have been biased because the judge had been governor of the Alberta group La Fondation franco-albertaine.

The French school board subsequently asked the Supreme Court of Canada to hear its case against the Yukon government.

On Jan. 21, the court heard final arguments from both parties in the matter. It will take between six and nine months to reach a decision.

Gouaillier said the school board is grateful to have been involved in the site selection process and expects to take part in the design and planning stages, too.

“It’s been a process of collaboration, which is much preferable to some of the more adversarial processes that have gone on in the past few years,” he said.

“We will be strongly advocating for this to move as early as possible.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com