French school board mulls F.H. Collins merger

The French school board wants more time to study its options before deciding whether to combine its high school with the new F.H.

The French school board wants more time to study its options before deciding whether to combine its high school with the new F.H. Collins building, says Lorraine Taillefer, the executive director of the Commission scolaire francophone du Yukon.

Taillefer and Education Minister Scott Kent met with around 100 parents and students at a public meeting on April 16 to discuss the possibility of offering francophone high school classes at the new school.

“The meeting was very good, very positive,” Taillefer said.

“For the most part people were extremely respectful of the opinions. It reflected what we had already heard from our student population and our staff. There are always two sides to a coin,” she said.

On one side are parents who worry that combining the schools will water down the French language component of the school and undermine its ability to preserve French culture,” Taillefer said.

On the other are students who want access to a wider variety of classes and the chance to socialize with more friends at F.H. Collins.

The Education Department put forward the idea of combining the schools earlier this month, but Kent said the decision ultimately rests with the CSFY. All he can do is make sure they fully understand all the options.

“The most critical thing I want to avoid with this process is having the school community surprised. I certainly understand arguments that are coming on both sides of this issue, and I want them to be fully informed when they make this decision,” Kent said.

While many details remain to be worked out, both schools would likely share common facilities like the gymnasium and the cafeteria, said Kent.

“It’s early days, obviously. This is the first broader public meeting. I would certainly anticipate that those issues will be part of the discussion that the CSFY would have with the community and present in their documentation going forward,” he said.

In March, Kent announced that the Education Department would abandon the current design for a new F.H. Collins and start over because construction bids came in too high. Education is now once again consulting with parents, students and staff of F.H. Collins about what they want their new school to look like.

“What we’re going to do is pick a design that meets the needs of the F.H. Collins community. Then we’ll make sure that it’s also flexible so that a French language high school … can be incorporated as part of that design at a later date,” he said.

In July 2011, the Yukon Supreme Court ruled that the Yukon government must build a new high school for French families in the territory big enough to hold 150 students.

The government appealed that decision, and the results are still pending.

The CSFY has struck a 10-person committee to look at all the options for a new school, including having the territory build a new facility, or possibly expand the current Ecole Emilie-Tremblay school, said Taillefer.

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