Fernie council has thrown their support behind a group that wants to start a French school in the town.
Heather Kerr from the Association Francophone des Rocheuses du Sud (AFRoS), which translates to Francophone Association of the Southern Rockies, attended the council meeting last week (March 25) to ask council for their support.
Council agreed to provide a letter of support to the group, to pass on to School District 93.
In the letter, Mayor Giuliano talked about the benefits of a Francophone school, above and beyond bilingualism.
“It will open opportunity for children within our community to broaden their appreciation and understanding of another culture, as well as increase their sensitivity to the differences between cultures,” she wrote.
“It will also allow the children of our community with a Francophone background to explore and develop the French language and culture of their Francophone heritage.”
Kootenay East MLA also wrote a letter in support of the school.
“Fernie has a high proportion of Francophones in the municipality and more that have yet to be identified,” he wrote. “Furthermore, there is one student from Sparwood, 20 minutes away, and three students from the rural area surrounding Fernie, all of whom would enroll in the school.
“This school would make Fernie and area a more attractive place to locate, particularly for families with job opportunities at our vibrant mining industry.”
Kerr agreed the school will help promote French education and culture in the Elk Valley.
The non-profit association incorporated just last spring and is lobbying for a Francophone school in Fernie. Kerr explained that School District 93, B.C.’s Francophone school district, requires a group of 15 registered students students to start up a school. So far, 11 have been registered, and eight more have expressed interest, but not yet registered.
On March 28, the group met with potential landlords for the K-2 school at Max Turyk, the old elementary school. They are also currently considering enlarging the school’s admission policy to accommodate children whose parents learned French later in life, in the hopes of increasing registrations in the Elk Valley area.
There have been several attempts in the past, and a group of parents did come close in 2008. “In September 2008 in Fernie they did have enough students, but one family at the last minute decided on a change of plans and withdrew their registration, and so then the school district withdrew it’s funding,” said Kerr, at that time. “There were a lot of people who were really disappointed and that had done a lot of rallying.
“So there was definitely a need recognized at that point to build a more cohesive Francophone community in the Elk Valley and South Country, and help get the word out.”
AFRoS are now aiming for a K1-2 class starting in September 2013, and hope to increase the school by one grade every year following the opening.
A final vote will be made on May 25.
Anyone interested in learning more information about AFRoS can visit their website at www.afros.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org.