Newfoundland and Labrador's education department is looking at turning a vacant junior high in St. John's into a second French school, but a group of parents feel they haven't been properly consulted about the matter.
The department says it is trying to determine whether the former Holy Cross Junior High School building on Ricketts Road – currently owned by the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John's – could be a viable second school for the francophone community.
Currently, École des Grands-Vents on Ridge Road is the only French school in St. John's — there are five French schools in the province — but issues related to overcrowding at the K-12 facility have been raised by members of the Conseil Scolaire Francophone Provincial de Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador (CSFP) for years.
A meeting was held Tuesday night to discuss the possibility of turning Holy Cross into a Grades 7-12 school, that would house students from École des Grands-Vents after they finish Grade 6.
According to the executive director of CSFP, Kim Christianson, the council has already reached an agreement in principle to take possession of the school and 49 students could be in class there as soon as September.
The school would be used for a five-year period, she said, while discussions continue about a new building.
While some parents were OK with that option, because there is no more room in the school, others raised concerns about separating the older and younger students, which they worry could affect cohesiveness.
"There's a need [for a new school], but there's also a desire to keep our community and our children together," said Leslie James, who has two children currently attending École des Grands-Vents.
Letter to board
James and some other parents are working on a letter to the provincial education department, which will be published on Friday.
They feel parents haven't been properly consulted on the overcrowding issues.
"I think our biggest concern is that we're being presented with one option and it seems like it's too late to have any other option," James said. "It's this or nothing."
James said she and other parents are in a hard position because they agree the current École des Grands-Vents simply isn't big enough to accommodate all students, so they're desperate to come up with more space.
"We're in a tough situation where the school is too small," she said. "There are not enough resources in terms of space, and the types of labs and potentially home economics [classrooms] or workshops for students in junior high or high school."
The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development said any requests for funding from the English or French school districts are being evaluated based on several factors such as state and age of the buildings involved, demographics and balancing the needs of the entire school system.