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New francophone school to open for Acadian region of Tor Bay

  • June 28 2023
  • By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

LARRY’S RIVER – The Tor Bay Acadian region received news on June 23 that the French first-language school they have been advocating for will become a reality in the coming school year.

A news release issued on that day by the Department of Education and Childhood Development stated, “Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP) [the Francophone school board for Nova Scotia], with support from the Department of Public Works, will install modular classrooms next to the Larry’s River Community Centre to create the school. Staff and students will be able to access the community centre’s meeting rooms, kitchen and playground. CSAP will work with the community on a long-term infrastructure solution.”

Education Minister Becky Druhan said, “To the families and students of Tor Bay and surrounding area, I’m so happy your education journey can take place in your community…This move will enhance French first-language programming for this historic Acadian community.”

Approximately 50 students have already expressed an interest in attending the school, which will initially offer classes from pre-primary to Grade 9. Capital and operational funding will be provided by the province. The modular units, which will first be used to form the school prior to the construction of a permanent building, are part of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s five-year capital plan, released June 16.

CSAP next steps

The Journal spoke with Michel Collette, CSAP directeur général, on June 26 about the announcement and the next steps to bring the school into operation.

“We’re all so excited,” said Collette. “This is great news for everybody involved. It offers more options for everybody in the community. We’re all very ecstatic.”

The goal, Collette said, is to open in September but, given the announcement is coming at the end of this school year, the turnaround time is very short. He said, “We are working diligently…there’s no doubt that operations, finances, buses, staffing are all conversations we’re having this week to see how we can make it happen for September.”

He added, “There are some pieces that need to be solved, and they’ll be solved this week on transportation and busing, i.e. ordering new buses or contracting out…The other piece is physical infrastructure, i.e. the modulars. Modulars are different than portable classrooms, they’re more of a semi-permanent fixture, [they] won’t arrive until much later in the school year.”

Talks, Collette said, are ongoing within the community to find interim space. He added until those issues are nailed down it isn’t possible to give an exact date for opening the school, “but we’re working with everybody for a September opening.”

Shortly after the announcement on June 23, the CSAP posted an advertisement for the position of director of the new Tor Bay school. Collette told The Journal on June 26 that staffing numbers had yet to be solidified as, “It’s hard to plan without approval. Now that we’ve had approval, we’re able to deep dive into that. There’s no doubt that this is a school that will grow. The numbers will evolve as we move forward.”

Asked about the process for naming the new school, Collette said it includes consultation with the community, which will put forward names for the school. A list of possible names will be compiled and whittled down to approximately five that align with board policy and “We’ll look at how many have picked name ‘x’ and how many have picked name ‘y’ and what does the acronym look like…all that comes into play…and the board makes the final decision, but it is really based out of community choices.”

Collette couldn’t put a timeframe on the naming process but said, in the interim, it would be known as École de Torbé.

With the official announcement of the new school, people in the area who heretofore have not expressed interest in the school may wish to take advantage of the educational opportunity. Collette said prospective students could register online but until the school is added to the province’s database in a few weeks’ time, “They can contact the CSAP, and we’ll take it down manually. That’s how we’re going to start off.”

Colette concluded his remarks by stating, “The community has worked very hard on this, and the municipality has worked hard on this as well. And I really want to thank everybody for all their hard work. We couldn’t have done it without their help, they were the leads; we just helped them navigate the process.”

Community reaction

Jennifer Delorey of Larry’s River, a leader of the Tor Bay Area Parent/CSAP Liaison Group (Guysborough County Catchment Area), told The Journal she was over the moon after hearing the good news.

“It is so historic for us. It’s historic for the province really. It means so much to the community; we still have our goosebumps,” she said.

As for the impact of a French first-language school in the area, Delorey said, “It’s monumental, the cultural significance is beyond measure…We [parents group] met Friday evening [June 23] and we just can’t believe that the language isn’t going to be lost because we were that close to this community and surrounding areas of losing this language forever. And the amount of community members that have shown interest in reclaiming their language through what the school is going to be able to provide to the community, has everybody exited. It’s not just the children and the future, it’s the present and it’s so significant to everyone’s past. It’s something that the date and time will always be stamped on this community as when the past and present forged the future.”

Delorey – who’s thankful for the support of the CSAP, the Municipality of the District of Guysborough and Guysborough-Tracadie MLA Greg Morrow in bringing the French first-language school to the Tor Bay region – also told The Journal, “I am a former student of Riverview Consolidated [school] in New Harbour which was a Primary to Grade 9 school. I was [part of] the last Grade 9 class that was ever in that school…to think that we’d ever be in a situation that we’d see a new school come to us, we never would have thought it. But the amount of work that the Acadian Society has done to date to have this region recognized for what it is; it’s nothing short of amazing that we’ll be able to preserve and carry the language forward for generations.”

Government commitment

Morrow said of the announcement, which will create the only CSAP school in his riding, “It’s a historic announcement. This is the last Acadian community in the province without its own CSAP school. So, it’s very exciting for all the community members who worked so hard on this and the community in general. It’s been less than two years, it was in 2021 that Tor Bay was officially recognized as an Acadian region. So, to come from that, in less than two years, to the announcement of their own CSAP school is really quiet remarkable. It’s a very exciting time for the community.”

Asked to comment on the province’s overall commitment to French language education Morrow said, “It’s very important to these Acadian communities that they have access to this education right there at home.”

Morrow went on to say that the government’s announcement regarding the Tor Bay school, “really shows that the commitment is there to provide that education at home for these students.”