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ESSMY, SACHS hear plans for merger

Faith in Our Future proposes high school merger
1801 ESSMYFuturehorz 9277 km
TABLE TALK – About 70 people were at St. Albert Catholic High Jan. 15 for an open house on a proposal to move École Secondaire Sainte Marguerite d'Youville's high school students to SACHS as of this fall. A second open house on the proposal will be held Jan. 22 at ESSMY. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

High school students will face split-grade classes and fewer choices if they stay at École Secondaire Sainte Marguerite d’Youville this fall, families learned this week – and at least one student says she’s okay with that future.

About 70 people braved -37 C temperatures Jan. 15 to attend an open house at St. Albert Catholic High on the Faith in Our Future proposal.

Greater St. Albert Catholic school trustees tabled Faith in Our Future last fall. Implemented in full, it would move École Marie Poburan’s students to ESSMY, ESSMY’s high school students to St. Albert Catholic High, the St. Gabriel distance learning school and district office to the Marie Poburan building, and École Father Jan students to a new school building in Riverside by 2024.

Board members paused most of the proposal last December in the face of opposition, but chose to keep studying plans to move ESSMY’s high school to SACHS.

“Given the cuts in government funding we experienced ... we can’t continue to fund (ESSMY) as we have in the past,” said GSACRD board chair Joe Becigneul.

Wednesday’s open house was meant to show ESSMY and SACHS families how moving, or not moving, the ESSMY students would affect education at both schools.

ESSMY’s 40-odd high school students can currently choose to take most core classes in French in a school where staff speak French most of the time, explained assistant superintendent of learning services Rhonda Nixon. Some classes are split grades, with multiple grades in one classroom, some are part of the Advance Placement program, and some (such as options and AP classes) are in English. Students can take options locally or at SACHS, and can join sports teams at SACHS.

If the high school stays at ESSMY, it would have up to 37 students next fall, Nixon said. Virtually all core classes would be split grades, and none would be AP – students would have to go to SACHS for that program.

If the high school moves to SACHS, that school would have about 83 students in French Immersion, Nixon said. Students there would be able to take all but a handful of core classes in French, but staff would not necessarily speak French most of the time. The school would offer AP and International Baccalaureate courses, but would now charge a fee for IB courses to defray costs.

Peter Cahill, parent of a high school student in ESSMY, supported keeping that school’s high school open. SACHS may have a wider variety of courses, but it doesn’t have the immersive French environment of ESSMY.

“The French Immersion, even if it was offered, it wouldn’t be as effective,” he said.

Grade 11 ESSMY student Hannah Jamieson said she’d be fine with having all split-grade classes this fall, noting she had no problems with the ones she had this term.

“SACHS is a good school. It’s just that I had a choice to go here in Grade 9 and I chose not to,” she said.

“I just want to graduate at ESSMY ... I don’t want to be forced out of my school.”

A second open house on the proposed move will be held at ESSMY on Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. The GSACRD board is scheduled to vote on this issue in February.

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Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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