GUYSBOROUGH – Board members of the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP) – the Francophone school board for Nova Scotia – voted in favour of establishing a French language school in the Tor Bay Acadian region of Guysborough County last month.
Michel Collette, CSAP Direction Générale, visited Guysborough County last week to start the groundwork necessary to open an interim location for the school in September 2023, pending provincial approval.
“It’s very exciting,” said Collette as he sat down to talk to The Journal. “After the board decision last week, the board sent a letter to the Department of Education…asking for approval to open the school in this community. We haven’t received word from the minister as of yet; we’re hoping to get approval by the end of March.”
The letter to the province makes the case for the new school, specifying that 40 to 50 families in the area have expressed interest in a French language education and would like to start a school.
“We are asking for approval to do so including funding for staff, infrastructure, busing and everything else that comes with [a school] and an interim building because…we can’t build a school in six months,” said Collette.
Funding for CSAP schools is provided by the province – based on student enrollment – as it is for regional centres for education. However, Collette said, “When you launch a school…and there’s a language acquisition piece to it, you can’t use that formula. You need to front load some extra resources. A lot of these students are going to be entering with little French background so, the reality is, if we want to get them to speak both languages, we need to front load resources. So, there will be extra resource teachers on staff. There will be extra speech language pathologists. We are going to put the resources necessary to adequately fund the school. It is not as black and white as a ratio per student, especially in this specific situation.”
CSAP is optimistic that the province will approve the request to open a new school in Guysborough County. Asked if such a request had ever been denied, Collette told The Journal, to the best of his knowledge, it never has been. He added, “There is a legal precedent in the country. It would be difficult, not impossible, but difficult for the government to say no with those kind of numbers.”
Once approval for the school has been given by the province, CSAP will quickly move to secure a location and staff for the new school. Collette said, “We’re already starting to put things in place now. We’re not signing anything, but we are trying to meet with community partners to try and line everything up so that, once approval is given, a lot of the conversations have already taken place and we’re able to move quickly. For example, I am meeting with the rec centre [Chedabucto Lifestyle Centre in Guysborough] to see if we can use some of their infrastructure for our students.”
Along with bringing French language education to Guysborough County, Collette told The Journal they’re also planning to bring a different education style to the new school.
“I’m trying to create a different type of learning for these kids. This is a smaller group of students so you’re really able to tailor the educational needs to the students. We’re moving away from the typical teachers in front of the classroom talking to 20 kids and we’re looking more at a collaborative [approach]; how do we do it, who are the staff members that we need and we are designing space around that,” he said.
Speaking to the opportunity that a CSAP school will bring to Guysborough County, Collette thought back to when he first visited the area just more than a year-and-a-half ago. He said, “It’s a hidden gem. I look forward to working with community to making this school something special for everybody. It doesn’t matter which language you speak, it’s good for everybody.”