Groundbreaking for French school set for spring

Michelle Allenberg, The Tribune

Plans for a new $12.8 million facility to house students from both Confederation Secondary school and Champlain elementary school are slowly moving forward.

In 2015 the Conseil scolaire Viamonde was awarded almost $11 million from the Ministry of Education to construct a new school.

Jean-Francois L’Heureux, chair of Conseil scolaire Viamonde, said the board actually received $12.8 million when including funding received for early childhood and day care support.

The plan is to have a new facility built where Confederation is currently located on Tanguay Street in Welland. The building will accommodate about 375 students from junior kindergarten to Grade 12. Although located in the same building, elementary and high school students will be separated and will occupy different areas of the building. The name of the new combined school won’t be decided on until after the construction is near completion.

Claire Francoeur, communications with Conseil scolaire Viamonde, said after about two years, Conseil scolaire Viamonde has a building design and received project approval during Fall 2016 from the city of Welland.

Conseil scolaire Viamonde is currently looking for a contractor that can build the school within the budget. Francoeur said it has taken some time to find a contractor, but she is hopeful there should be a ground breaking ceremony this spring. It will take about 12 to 18 months for completion.

Francoeur said Confederation and Champlain will remain open during the construction of the school. The land where Confederation is located is about 15 acres in size. Francoeur said this will prevent construction from interfering with classes and sports activities.

Champlain will be offered for sale to other school boards once the two schools have been combined. L’Heureux said if the board is unable to sell to other boards, the building will be sold through other public or private markets.

L’Heureux said the decision to combine the two schools was made due to the age of the buildings.

Both schools were built decades ago, Confederation being built in the 1960s and Champlain being built in the 1950s. He said Conseil scolaire Viamonde decided to take advantage of the funds available through the Ministry to combine schools and reducing building sizes for cost efficiency.

There was also a need for a building which supports and offers new technology. The school will include interactive smart boards in classrooms, computers and wifi for more advanced 21st century learning.

“It will be a huge improvement, it will be the same for the elementary school because technology is being used in the classroom,” Francoeur said.

The board also ensures its schools are eco-friendly. Francoeur said the building will be energy efficient — Confederation was built for about 1,000 students and is not energy efficient.

“We are always conscientious of the environment, so first we always try to limit our footprint when we are building to be sure we are buying as much as we can locally … We also try to recycle when we are building,” Francoeur said.

Francoeur said Conseil scolaire Viamonde has had the largest increase of student enrolment when compared to the public and Catholic school boards. She said in Ontario the board is welcoming an increased number of students, but in Welland enrolment has remained stable in recent years.

“The demographic is not the same in Welland,” Francoeur said.
L’Heureux said French education is much different to French immersion offered in English schools. Every single interaction is done in French at French schools, whereas in French immersion there are times when English is used. He said he hopes parents who want their
children to learn French will be more inclined to send them to the new school.