New high-school wing opens at École-sur-Mer in Summerside

·3 min read
The new wing includes classrooms, space for students to socialize and a multi-purpose breakout room.
The new wing includes classrooms, space for students to socialize and a multi-purpose breakout room.

(Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

After years of planning and construction, the new high-school wing at École-sur-Mer French school in Summerside is open for students.

The school, one of six in P.E.I.'s French-language school system, has 210 students in grades K-12 and is growing by about seven to 10 per cent each year, says principal Karen Leblanc.

"We're already thinking about what the next step would be," said Leblanc.

"I think in no time, we're going to have to really think about how we're going to add more space because we're outgrowing the school again."

Principal Karen Leblanc says the new school wing, with large windows and multi-purpose classrooms, feels like 'a breath of fresh air.'
Principal Karen Leblanc says the new school wing, with large windows and multi-purpose classrooms, feels like 'a breath of fresh air.'

The new wing includes double the classroom space of the current school, with special classrooms for culinary arts, carpentry and automotive classes.

With those classrooms comes the chance to offer new courses.

"That, essentially, would be one of the reasons why students would decide to stay," said Leblanc.

"Because we have the carpentry classroom, we have the [motor vehicle room] and we have a makerspace. And it's not just the space itself … we're going to be able to offer better-quality courses."

Grade 11 student Emilie Benoit has been at the school since kindergarten and has seen many of her classmates leave to go to English schools with more course offerings.
Grade 11 student Emilie Benoit has been at the school since kindergarten and has seen many of her classmates leave to go to English schools with more course offerings.

Students hope those class offerings will keep more of their peers at the school in the older grades.

"We usually get students that change schools after, like, Grade 7 or Grade 10 for … different opportunities," said Grade 10 student Noah Farrell.

"But at our school, we have a whole bunch of opportunities now."

Emilie Benoit, who is in Grade 11, agrees. She's seen many of her classmates leave over the years for larger English schools.

"Hopefully this will make the younger kids want to stay at this French school, [rather] than going to another school," said Benoit.

This area in the new wing is for students to spend time together during breaks.
This area in the new wing is for students to spend time together during breaks.

Along with classrooms, the new wing includes spaces for students to socialize and a breakout room for solo work or group projects.

"The space is nicer," said Leblanc.

"It's brighter … the colours are more mature. They feel like they're in a high school. There's quite a difference."

I want the students to stay until Grade 12 and to have their education in French from kindergarten to Grade 12. — Karen Leblanc, École-sur-Mer

École-sur-Mer opened 19 years ago after a Supreme Court challenge, fought by two local francophone mothers, resulted in the ruling that French-speakers had the right to a school in their own community.

That decision also led to French schools opening in Rollo Bay, Deblois, and Rustico.

Continued need for French education in Summerside

Leblanc said this new expansion shows the continued need for a French school in Summerside.

"We have a lot of families that are families from surrounding areas that are francophone, that live in Summerside, live in our zone, and that want their children to be educated in French in a French-language school," she said.

"I want the students to stay until Grade 12 and to have their education in French from kindergarten to Grade 12. That's certainly what we're focusing on and hoping for."

'It's finally here'

As for the students, Monday was the start of a new step in their education.

"Everybody is excited. We can see everyone, even not only students, but teachers, too. They're all excited to come in," said Benoit.

"I think we're all just happy to be here," said Farrell.

"We were really tired of waiting every week. And it's finally here and we're happy."

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