GUYSBOROUGH – The Torbay Area Parent/CSAP Liaison Group held an information session for parents and community members interested in a proposed French language school for the area on Jan. 24.
Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP) representatives were invited to the meeting, which took place at the Communities Around the Bay Multi-Use Facility in Larry’s River. It was attended by approximately 40 people in person and online, and served to answer questions and provide details on the type of program and supports offered to students in a new school, should it open.
The meeting began with a recap from liaison group member Jennifer Delorey, whose son is one of two students from the area attending the nearest CSAP school in the region – École acadienne de Pomquet in Antigonish County. She described the initial survey to gauge interest in the project last spring and additional steps taken such as the presentation to the CSAP board last December.
CSAP Director General Michel Collette explained how the CSAP school system works, the close-knit community found among the 22 CSAP schools across the province and the commitment to provide resources and support to new schools in the system.
Collette said of the proposed school in Larry’s River, “Everybody wants this. I don’t need to be convinced…It’s always been a numbers game.”
For any school to be viable, a certain number of students must attend. Every school that has opened under the CSAP banner has increased its enrollment from the original numbers. In an area with a small population base, this point has been a potential stumbling block for the project but as of the Monday (Jan. 30) following the meeting, Delorey told The Journal, 46 students had registered for the school, ranging from preschool to Grade 10.
Many parents had questions about putting their children into a French-only school, first of which was voiced by Mallori Nickerson, who asked the question top of mind for most: how would they learn?
Collette explained that in a new school, most students would all be starting from the same level of French – generally none – and that made the learning process easier as all students would be on the same page and progress together. Additional supports would be offered to students and their families to assist in the adjustment and in the future, when needed.
Nickerson said of Collette’s answer, “It’s just like heaven to parents’ ears.”
Delorey added that, when her child entered the CSAP system this school year, she had been offered and was taking a free online French course offered by CSAP, making her, as well as her student who is in Grade 9, part of the CSAP family.
Emily Doyle, also a member of the parent group, asked about school sports. With a small number of students, especially in the beginning, would students be able to play on school teams?
François Rouleau, CSAP’s regional director of the northern cluster, fielded the question and said that CSAP schools and other school boards can join forces to fill the numbers required for team sports.
“We can do that…it’s very open,” Rouleau said, although he said it was an issue for students in the high school.
Ashley Grover, a parent and a teacher, asked what support was available in the CSAP system for students with special needs.
Nicole Avery-Bell, a proponent for the French school and a teacher, said, based on her experience, “Your chances of getting an assessment are much greater with the CSAP…I’ve never seen the ratio of assessments for number of students in any school, in any board that I’ve ever worked in.”
Collette added, “We want kids to succeed…we’ll try to deliver resources to ensure kids succeed. If that means in-house assessment, there is staff that will do that. We also have contracts where we hire other staff in the province to do that to be able to meet the needs, if they are required.”
Those at the meeting also asked about transportation for students –which is provided by the CSAP, from home to school, through a minivan or taxi service at no charge to students.
Another parent asked if classes would be split, and what levels would be grouped together. In a small school, people had concerns that grouping would cover too many grades in one class.
Avery-Bell said it would be dependent on numbers and Rouleau added, “We’ve had three levels in a class in the past.”
Collette said, “It would be something, hypothetically, like primary to three, four to six, seven to nine…There’s a lot of research on the advantages of having those combined classes, especially for smaller groups.”
As the meeting wrapped up, Nicole Dupuis, executive director of the Fédération des parents acadiens de la Nouvelle-Écosse (FPANÉ) – who attended the meeting online – told those assembled, “We’re willing to help…I encourage everyone to keep going…We support your efforts.”
For more information on the CSAP parent group and the proposed school, contact Jennifer Delorey at email@example.com.