École François-Buote French school celebrates $10-million expansion

Maureen Coulter comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on March 23, 2016

Almothanna Karfoul plays his flute in the brand new music room at École François-Buote. The French school recently went through a $10-million expansion and renovation.

©THE GUARDIAN/Maureen Coulter

Student, parent weigh in on benefits of attending

Almothanna Karfoul of Charlottetown never imagined himself attending a French school when he moved to Prince Edward Island in the eighth grade.

Almothanna studied French as a third language in Syria and wasn't prepared for the atmosphere of just French at École François-Buote.

He said he went to school with only basic French-speaking skills.

"The first year was really tough because teachers would just speak French in class and I wouldn't understand a single thing," said Almothanna.

However, his mother, Raeda Alhasam, encouraged him to go to this school, as she felt this would be good for her son to be able to speak both official languages in their new country, said Almothanna.

"At first I was really scared and I doubted that was a good choice. Now I'm extremely happy."

The Grade 12 student said the teachers and students helped him throughout the process and he is now fluent in three languages.

"The school gave me extra help. They were always there trying to push me forward. With their help, I was able to actually speak French fluently and understand all my classes."

Almothanna said looking back, he wouldn't change a thing, as he feels speaking French will benefit him in the future.

This is exactly why Alanna Saulnier decided to enrol both of her daughters at École François-Buote. Annika is in Grade 1 while Ava is in the early childhood education program at the school.

"Having gone to this school and having gone through my education in French, I've realized the opportunities that were given to me and the doors that were opened," said Saulnier. "I think it's really important for them to have both official languages just for future jobs and further education."

Saulnier also feels her girls will learn their culture and heritage in this setting.

"I believe that they really engage the community to be a part of the school," said Saulnier. "A lot of the time, when they have activities for the students they also encompass the rest of the francophone community as well. "

École François-Buote and the Carrefour de l'Isle-Saint-Jean recently went through a three-stage $10 million expansion and renovation plan.

The school and community centre now boast 54,000 square feet of new and renovated space. The project took place over a three-year period.

Almothanna said he is enjoying the larger gym and music room.

"I love the new music room. It's actually big. It's just so awesome."

Saulnier feels the bigger the school is getting, the more high school students will want to complete their studies as there are more sports and afterschool activities available.

"I think of a lot of the times, in my experience, we started to lose students in later grades," said Saulnier. "With the infrastructures that they have put in place, I think that is only going to help students want to stay here longer and finish their education in a French school."