Parents of francophone high school students studying at Academie Parhelie are fed up with cramped classroom conditions and are demanding a solution to the issue before September.
That’s according to Sylvie Painchaud, president of the Emilie Tremblay school parents’ committee, who recently penned a stern letter to the French school board.
In it, she described the dangers of going another year without finding adequate space for its 40 or so high school students.
She said temporary facilities set up next to Ecole Emilie Tremblay – two portable classrooms – are a contributing factor to the decrease in retention of high school students.
“The reason why we need to do something now is because parents whose children are at the elementary school are considering sending their kids elsewhere once they get to Grade 9,” she said in an interview yesterday.
“We’re open to any solution right now but we need to find a space for high school students to call their own. It’s really important to them.”
When Painchaud worked at the elementary school in 2008, there were approximately 150 students.
Seven years later, that number has nearly doubled but the number of high school students has flat-lined.
It’s a telltale sign that something needs to give, Painchaud said.
The lack of space at Emilie Tremblay has created a ripple effect at the school, which has lost the use of its art, music and home economics classrooms.
The Grade 7-8 class now occupies those rooms.
“Parents are upset because they aren’t getting the same services they used to,” Painchaud said.
The portables, meanwhile, are used by the Grade 9-10 and 11-12 classes.
Their common area has been reduced to a single couch. Access to the gym is limited because of conflicting schedules with the elementary school.
Painchaud’s 15-year-old son spent last summer speculating about his high school career path.
At the last minute, he decided to spend another year at Academie Parhelie instead of enrolling at F.H. Collins.
That’s not something she wants him to go through again, she said.
The school board’s argument against making a move is based on fears that the government will look at a temporary solution as a permanent one, and decide against building a brand new school, she added.
“As parents we are ready to take that risk,” she said.
The francophone school board first proposed a new high school in 2007.
The school board and Yukon government have been mired in a court battle over the plans since 2009, when the board sued the government, saying that negotiations were going nowhere.
In 2011, the Supreme Court of the Yukon ordered the territorial government to build a new high school for francophones within two years.
In February this year, however, the Yukon Court of Appeal found that ruling may have appeared 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.
Regardless of whether they speak French or not, it comes down to Yukoners who need a new school, Painchaud said.
“We’re really aware that the school board works hard but we think it’s important to keep applying pressure to the government. They have a responsibility to provide a suitable space for its students.”
The French school board was unavailable for comment by press time.
Contact Myles Dolphin at