It’s high-tide at École-sur-Mer as the school is overflowing with students.
When Joanne Bulger started as vice-principal 13 years ago, there were just 57 students in Grades 1 to 6.
Now there are 200 students from Kindergarten to Grade 12.
The daycare at the adjoining Centre Belle-Alliance is full to the brim, and the high school classes are spread throughout the building as growth has outpaced the infrastructure.
Because of the limited space for extra programs, Bulger watched class numbers drop sharply as students entered high school years.
“I think the students didn’t see anything to keep them here for the future. And certainly, the nearby schools were attractive,” said Bulger.
So, she and other staff brainstormed with the students to find out what they wanted.
“To keep our students, we started adding sports teams. We started a theatre troupe and put on a musical. We also started investing in international travel. The students started to say ‘OK, we have the same chances here as the other schools.’ We even started a band program.”
Funding will bring new:
- Shop room
- Science lab
- Cooking space
- Student council room
- Bigger gymnasium
Now, fewer students are choosing to leave when they reach higher grades, said Bulger.
Thanks to $10.7 million from taxpayers announced Thursday by federal and provincial officials, the school can keep growing.
Minister of La Francophonie Mélanie Joly made the announcement but was a bit distracted by a pre-schooler from the audience twirling in the aisle near the podium.
“This will be life-changing to many of the kids that are here. They will be going to high school here, and we can be extremely proud of that,” said Joly, gesturing to the assembly of children.
She called the Atlantic region “an important cultural cradle” and acknowledged the hard work by the school and community on the project.
“To have a strong francophonie, we need dynamic communities and dynamic communities everywhere in the country,” said Joly.
Funding will renovate:
- Daycare expansion
- Meeting rooms
- Reception area
The $3 million federal portion will go to the shared spaces of la Centre Belle-Alliance, while $7.7 of provincial money will add to the school’s infrastructure, said P.E.I.’s Education Minister Jordan Brown.
“Modern smart, innovative spaces are important for teachers, support staff and students alike, so they can deliver and get the best possible educational experience,” said Brown.
The space is much-needed, said École-sur-Mer principal Karen LeBlanc.
“This year we had students in Grade 12, and we had to think of innovative solutions to find spaces for them. With the enlargement, we’ll be able to have carpentry and mechanics courses – now they leave the school to go to Miscouche,” said LeBlanc.
Katelyn Singer has been at Jardin des étoiles daycare and École-sur-Mer since she was two years old. This spring, she’ll be one of the school’s first-ever high school graduates.
“It’s important for students’ development to have a place where they can come each day and be proud to speak French. It will just help so much for the development of the French language in Summerside as well, for students and the community,” said Singer, who will begin a biology degree at Université de Moncton next year.
Joly also announced $494,334 in shared funding for seven P.E.I. organizations dedicated to preserving and promoting official language minority communities.
- Jeunesse Acadienne et francophone de l’Île-de-Prince-Édouard
- Société Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin
- Canadian Parents for French P.E.I.
- Fédération culturelle de l’Île-de-Prince-Édouard
- Action Femmes Île-de-Prince-Édouard
- Fédération des parents de l’Île-de-Prince-Édouard
- Association des Francophones de l’âge d’or de l’Île-de-Prince-Édouard