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School board hears results of ESSMY consultations

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STUDENT PROTEST – Gabrielle Tobisch, left, was one of about a dozen concerned parents and students who were at the GSACRD board meeting Jan. 27 to voice their concerns about the Faith in Our Future proposal, which, if enacted, would see all high school students at École Secondaire Sainte Marguerite d'Youville moved to St. Albert Catholic High as early as this fall. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

École Secondaire Sainte Marguerite d’Youville’s high school could stay open another year if it holds onto 33 students, but there’s no telling what would happen beyond that, parents heard this week.

About a dozen parents and students were at the Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools board meeting Jan. 27. Five students bore coloured signs with messages such as “Save ESSMY” and “Believe in single-track.”

Board members heard a report on the result of January’s two open houses on the Faith in Our Future proposal. The board was debating whether or not to move ESSMY’s high school program to St. Albert Catholic High this fall as part of that proposal. There are currently about 40 high school students at ESSMY.

Some 43 and 39 people submitted comments at the two open houses, with many of the same people attending both events, said assistant superintendent of learning services Rhonda Nixon. Commentators were evenly split at the first event between having ESSMY’s high school move or stay, with 55 per cent at the second saying it should stay.

While a significant number of respondents called for SACHS’s French Immersion students to be moved to ESSMY, Nixon said starting the immersion program at SACHS had proved fiscally responsible. About half of the district’s Grade 9 students would leave GSACRD instead of going on to Grade 10 prior to the start of French Immersion at SACHS in 2014. That’s dropped to about 44 per cent in the years since, with the program seeing rapid growth each year.

Many ESSMY students said they wanted to graduate from their current high school, and asked if they could be grandfathered out, Nixon said.

Nixon said the board could afford to keep ESSMY’s high school open next year (and thus give current Grade 11s a shot at graduating from it) if at least 33 students enrolled in it, some of which would have to be students currently in Grade 9. How long the high school could stay open after that would depend on enrolment and provincial budgets.

A frustrated Gabrielle Tobisch asked the board what they were doing to revitalize the high school at ESSMY. A Grade 11 student at the school, she said the uncertainty caused by Faith in Our Future had already prompted five of her fellow students to leave the district.

“It feels as if this is part of some plan to get rid of our students.”

Board chair Joe Becigneul said the board has tried to boost enrolment at ESSMY several times over the years, and needs to think about its obligations to all students.

The board was set to vote on the ESSMY move Feb. 10.

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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