School swap saga continues

Hay River District Education Authority chairperson Terence Courtoreille said they want to hear from parents of Harry Camsell students to see what they have to say about an offer to share school facilities.

Hay River District Education Authority chairperson Terence Courtoreille said they want to hear from parents of Harry Camsell students to see what they have to say about an offer to share school facilities.

The Hay River District Education Authority says it has a new offer from the GNWT to swap Harry Camsell School and Ecole Boreale.

It had not been publicly released as of press time, but a public consultation had been set to take place March 4 to discuss the matter. While the entire community was invited, district education authority chairperson Terence Courtoreille said the main goal was to hear what parents of students at Harry Camsell had to say.

“We need to know if they can accept a swap as a concept before we move into discussing the logistics of what that would entail,” he told The Hub. “We can’t support it until we hear what the parents have to say.”

The GNWT proposed the school swap as a potential solution to a court ruling that dictated Ecole Boreale and Ecole Allain St-Cyr in Yellowknife get more facilities for home economics and other labs – but most crucially, gym space. The current proposal would see two grades from Harry Camsell move into Princess Alexandra School, with the remaining children heading to the Ecole Boreale facility and using Princess Alexandra’s gym. All grades at Ecole Boreale would move into the current Harry Camsell building on Woodland Drive.

Courtoreille explained Harry Camsell and Princess Alexandra are currently at between 35 and 40 per cent capacity, but that the move would see Princess Alexandra rise to 60 or 70 per cent with the two extra grades.

“There are a lot of logistical questions we’re expecting from the public,” he said, adding that members of the district education authority had done research to be able to answer those queries.

The education authority’s main concern is programming. Courtoreille said their work so far has not indicated a swap would adversely affect it in any way. He even went so far as to suggest a new space might allow for growth in areas like music programming and aboriginal culture teaching.

Both Harry Camsell and Ecole Boreale are GNWT assets, and Courtoreille said the Department of Education, Culture, and Employment can technically allocate them as they please. Courtoreille said the district education authority would know more after the meeting Tuesday and be more able to formulate a response to the GNWT either way.

Suzette Montreuil, president of the Commission Scolaire Francophone, told The Hub that Ecole Boreale parents are invited to a consultation meeting on March 5 after the Hay River District Education Authority’s meeting. Although some consultations have already taken place, she said the group needs to consider the new memorandum of understanding as well.

“There has been a second draft of the MOU and we’re in the process of reviewing it,” she said. “It’s important for both communities to have their say.”

-Sarah Ladik