Progress made in francophone school spat

The French school board and the Yukon government have been making headway in the longstanding issue of building a new francophone high school in Whitehorse, says school board president Ludovic Gouaillier.

The French school board and the Yukon government have been making headway in the longstanding issue of building a new francophone high school in Whitehorse, says school board president Ludovic Gouaillier.

“The government has been fairly open and has recognized the need for a new school,” he said.

The board held a fresh round of consultations this summer, gathering input from parents, teachers and students.

It compiled the results into a lengthy report, which the board plans on discussing at its upcoming annual general meeting on Sept. 25.

The report states the government is willing to work towards a deal but needs more clarity on which option the board wants to pursue.

Those options include: enlarging Ecole Emilie Tremblay; building a new school on its property but separate from the existing school; building a new school on the FH Collins campus but separate from it; building a school annexed to FH Collins; and building a stand-alone school elsewhere in the city, ideally closer to downtown.

The report states the school would aim to have space for 150 to 200 students from Grade 8 to 12.

The school board wasn’t looking for a consensus when it held its recent consultations, Gouaillier said. They were only looking to gauge the pulse of the francophone community.

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.

“We’d like to control the whole bit. So programs, facilities, staff, finances,” said school board president Andre Bourcier at the time. “At this point we feel we’re being micromanaged by the government.”

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 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.

Despite the animosity in court, discussions between both parties have been positive this year, said Gouaillier.

“Students in the school system in the Yukon need to be put somewhere,” he said.

“In our discussions the government has shown openness in building that school. We simply have to wait for a decision from the Supreme Court.”

He said there is a dire need to get francophone high school students into a bigger school, as Ecole Emilie Tremblay is “bursting at the seams.”

The government has purchased a few portable classrooms to accommodate the excess number of students.

The facilities are temporary, Gouaillier said, because they’re not long-term solutions and the government can’t keep adding them onto the school.

“We still have students set up in places where they ideally shouldn’t be set up,” he said.

“They’re studying in spaces normally used for culinary arts sometimes. The government seems to be coming to terms and recognizing this needs to be rectified.”

The board is always looking for more input leading up to the upcoming meeting, Gouaillier said.

He said he’ll be relieved once this issue has been dealt with.

“But not as relieved as the students will be,” he said.

“It’s something we’re looking forward to resolving in a major way.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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