The Yukon’s first francophone high school will now be built to accommodate 150 students from Grades 7 to 12.
That is despite a 2016 functional plan commissioned by the previous Yukon Party government that recommended the school be large enough to accommodate at least 200 students.
Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee told local media Wednesday afternoon that functional plans are “produced at a very, very early planning stage with respect to any project.”
A change in government, a project budget of $27.5 million, and collaboration with partners including the Yukon Francophone School Board (CSFY) have resulted in an updated plan to build the school for 150 students, McPhee said.
Scott Kent, the Yukon Party’s Education critic, says that number doesn’t reflect “what the functional plan says about population projections and student enrolment projections.”
It could leave the project’s proponent, the Yukon government, “making plans to renovate the school when they’re cutting the ribbon on it,” Kent quipped.
The May 2016 functional plan projects the CSFY will have 149 secondary school students in Grades 7 to 12 in 2021-22 and 172 students in 2024-25.
Given that a school’s lifespan often lasts 50 to 60 years, “a capacity of 200 students is a minimum and the design must incorporate elements that will allow for future expansion,” the plan reads.
There are currently 58 students between Grades 7 and 12 enrolled in the French first language secondary program, McPhee told the legislative assembly Wednesday.
That number, however, would drop to 40 if Grade 7 students weren’t included.
She pointed out that other high schools in the territory do not include Grade 7, “so certainly, there is some movement going forward, should we reach an exorbitant amount of students.”
Last fall, Marc Champagne, the CSFY’s executive director, told the Star the future school’s estimated capacity was 200 students.
He also said that it will not just be built for the 58 students who were already enrolled in the French First Language program for students in Grades 7 to 12 at École Émilie-Tremblay, where retention is a challenge.
Rather, it’s intended to service the nearly 180 students registered at that time in the French First Language elementary school program at École Émilie-Tremblay “that are going to be eligible for that high school in just a few years,” Champagne said.
According to the Yukon government’s YESAB proposal, the school is scheduled for completion by November 2020.
This morning, the CSFY sent an emailed statement to the Star, saying the board is “very pleased” the government continues to support the secondary school project and has allocated $3 million for the school in its 2018-19 budget.
“Even though the school being designed will have a capacity of 150 students, it will be possible in the future to contemplate an expansion when the school reaches its capacity,” the statement reads.
McPhee told reporters that “we anticipate that this community is growing, but that a school of 150 students will accommodate them for a long time to come.”