GUYSBOROUGH – A survey was delivered to Guysborough District Municipality mailboxes last week to determine the level of interest in establishing a French first language school in Tor Bay.
The Federation of Acadian Parents of Nova Scotia (FPANE), in partnership with FANE and the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP), will evaluate the surveys and whether sufficient interest is expressed; CSAP representatives will meet with interested parties to answer questions and discuss next steps.
The poll is partly attributable to the recent induction of the Tor Bay Acadian Society into the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse, or FANE (Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse), last fall, when representatives of the community, including Jude Avery, promoted the idea of a French school.
The Journal spoke to Avery last week about the investigation and the prospect of establishing a French-language school in the Tor Bay area.
Since Avery pitched the idea last fall, he’s had nothing but positive feedback.
“I haven’t heard any negative comments,” he said, adding that the community wanted to engage in this project.
Since the Tor Bay area is a small fishing community, some may wonder if it has the population to support a school.
Avery said the school’s catchment area would include communities within a 40 kilometer radius of Tor Bay, an area which has just over 2,000 households.
“It gives us a fairly large catchment area and basically to get a charter for the school, all we need initially is 10 students,” Avery said, adding, “I think the thinking behind that is that wherever you have 10…that gives you the legal right [to open a school]. The other thing is that by the time the school opens, usually it’s common knowledge that [the] the schools are too small because the schools are very popular. Wherever you build them, they fill them.
Avery cites the École Acadienne de Pomquet in Antigonish County as an example. This school, which opened its doors in 2003 with just over 150 students, now has more than 350. Expansion is also planned.
An Acadian revival has flourished in the Tor Bay area, with Avery spearheading many projects and events that celebrate local culture and history. He said of the desire to bring a French-language school to the region: “We have to recognize the fact that we are based in a bilingual country and the concept, at the time of Confederation, is that services would continue in both languages. It’s enshrined in our constitution. This is more than a frivolous request. The attempt with this whole program is to right a wrong. The wrong was done many years ago, when cultures were not appreciated, recognized and did not have their rights; they just shut them down.
The deadline for submitting surveys is the end of February.
“At the beginning of March, I should receive comments on the progress of the investigation, then they [CSAP] let us know when the next steps are,” Avery said.
The survey is available at: https://www.fpane.org/ecoletorbaie.
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