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French school board and Yukon government strike deal

The first step in the planning phase for the construction of a francophone high school in Whitehorse is now underway.

The first step in the planning phase for the construction of a francophone high school in Whitehorse is now underway.

The Yukon government and French school board announced yesterday they had awarded a functional planning contract to Thibodeau Architecture and Design, a firm that has offices in Vancouver, Montreal and Whitehorse.

That contract includes developing space and site requirements, such as the number of classrooms in the school and the size of the gym.

It also includes establishing a preliminary construction schedule and budget for the building.

Marc Champagne, the school board’s executive director, said it’s a big step for both parties.

“For us it’s important because it’s a concrete step and it brings us closer to building a new school,” he said.

The architectural firm will also come up with a suitable construction delivery method, Champagne said, and make a recommendation.

That could be a design-build agreement where both services are contracted to a single company, like with Clark Builders and the new F.H. Collins School.

Or it could be a traditional build where the design and construction are contracted to different companies.

The planning of a francophone high school in Whitehorse has been in the works for years.

The idea of combining a high school with a community centre has been floating around since 2007, the year the school board first proposed a new high school.

Champagne presented conceptual plans of what a new school could potentially look like at the board’s annual general meeting in October.

It would include classrooms, a library, a theatre space for over 200 people and offices for Association franco-yukonnaise staff. The theatre would be available to all Yukoners.

As it stands, space is running out for high school students at Academie Parhelie.

The Grade 9-10 and 11-12 classes have been using portable classrooms for over a year.

In May 2015, the school board picked the site of Riverdale’s skate park for a future high school among three options presented by the Yukon government. If built, it would be the sixth school in Riverdale.

Education Minister Doug Graham has committed to building the school but hasn’t formally announced it would be built in Riverdale, nor has he talked about a completion date.

In an interview yesterday Graham said the site still hasn’t been finalized. “But this (contract) helps us along that road,” he added.

“We’re trying to hurry because we know it’s a real priority for them.”

No timeline has been set for the construction of the school, but a newly created construction committee has indicated it would like to see it completed by the fall of 2018, in time for the start of that school year.

Champagne said it’s still possible to stick to that timeline.

“We’ve very pleased that we’ve gotten to this stage of the process,” he said.

Work is anticipated to be complete by the end of March 2016.

At that point, the French school board needs to apply and obtain funding from Canadian Heritage to help cover the costs of the project. It also needs to apply for a development permit to the City of Whitehorse.

Contact Myles Dolphin at