The École La Vallée parent advisory committee (PAC) is lobbying for a new short-term space for next fall with its sights set on a brand new school in the future.
The group met with the consiel scolaire francophone (CSF), the francophone school board, earlier this month to voice concerns about their current space and express their hopes for the future.
“It was great,” said Kristi Thomas, chair of the PAC (or APE). “There were a lot of thought-provoking questions that came up and discussions, but the bottom line is, we need a new school in three years.”
Currently, the school is housed in portables behind Signal Hill Elementary School with some classes taking place across the street at the Pemberton Community Centre. The PAC has concerns over the conditions of the portables, Thomas added.
“Pemberton is continuing to grow and expand and our school is bursting,” she said, adding that the school started with 30 students but has since ballooned to 60. “We’ve always been an afterthought. We’ve never had a proper campus or school. There are maintenance and cleanliness issues with the portables.”
But there is some hope, she added. Three years ago, the CSF and the Francophone Parents of B.C. went to court in an effort to obtain more funding for both infrastructure and transportation for its B.C. schools.
Last year, after two years in court, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the school board would receive funding for school bus service as well as a new funding model. It’s still not clear though how all of that money will be used.
“You look at the fairness between French schools and English schools and it’s just not there,” Thomas said. “It’s inequitable… the bottom line is we’re in a country where we’re supposed to have equal support for both languages and culture as well. We’re supposed to celebrate those differences.”
Another challenge the group faces: CSF officials have advised that if they do find a short-term solution that works well they could be bumped down the priority list for a new school. “We should have both,” Thomas said. “We have kids crammed into a portable that is way too small; even with the new portable opening up, we are still overcrowded. We should be able to have a school similar to the English school, where our kids aren’t subject to commuting across roads amongst multiple buildings, where the heat works, and they’re not on top of each other. We have a major lack of space issue right now and it’s only getting worse.”
To that end, Thomas and the PAC are continuing to look at all outside-the-box solutions in hopes of finding a new space sooner.
They’ve found two spaces in Pemberton that are properly zoned and are exploring those possibilities. They’re also looking at the possibilities of fundraising or securing donations to build their own school.
“Does the APE or PAC take on this role? There gets to be a critical energy amongst the group of parents that are motivated that ultimately want to see change,” she said. “That’s ultimately what gets the ball rolling.”
In the meantime, the community can support the school through its Quebec maple syrup sale at the Pemberton Valley Supermarket to help raise funds.