Grade 2 student Leon Moinier of Ecole Beausoleil with dad Sam Becevel. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Grade 2 student Leon Moinier of Ecole Beausoleil with dad Sam Becevel. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Beausoleil school possibly moving to Braefoot property in Saanich

Francophone parents call for purpose-built school

Young Francophone student Léon Moinier is in Grade 2 at École Beausoleil.

He knew he’d only have one more year at the Kindergarten to Grade 3 school on Bank Street before moving either to the Francophone school district’s main Victoria campus of L’école Victor-Brodeur in Esquimalt, or somewhere else.

As the lease with SD61 ends in June, Beausoleil will likely relocate this summer to a temporary home on the Braefoot elementary property in Saanich. Pascale Cyr, spokesperson for the Conseil Scolaire Francophone (B.C. French school district), said the school will use CSF’s own modular classrooms.

READ ALSO: How Victoria’s little Ecole Beausoleil is at the heart of a national court case

“In Victoria, ministry staff are working the CSF in their lease negotiations to provide students with a temporary, short-term solution using modular classrooms, as well a permanent solution in the community, as soon as possible,” said Ministry of Education spokesperson Scott McKenzie.

It’s not what the parents who enrolled their kids at Beausoleil expected. SD61 closed the Sundance school five years ago, which is when Beausoleil started, noted parent Sam Becevel, a member of the Beausoleil parents association.

The parents would like to see some progress on a permanent, purpose-built facility for Beausoleil (which is part of the CSF plan), as L’école Victor-Brodeur, and the neighbouring Lampson school property, are at capacity in Esquimalt.

CSF said the Braefoot location will be temporary until a new K to 12 Francophone school can be built somewhere in Victoria.

“This isn’t a new thing. My parents were fighting for a school 30 years ago when I was a kid,” said Becevel, who attended the high school predecessor to Ecole Victor Brodeur.

But the sudden surge in the regional core area student population of Victoria has forced SD61 to rejig its catchment boundaries with a goal of alleviating the pressure on certain schools, such as Willows elementary. As a result, Sundance will be reopened as an SD61 school, with a new catchment, drawing students from an area in between George Jay, Doncaster, Margaret Jenkins, Willows, and Oaklands elementary schools. In fact, the first class of Sundance (if that’s to be the name) Kindergarten students already started in September and are using space at Willows.

READ ALSO: Sundance’ first class of students starts at Willows elementary

Beausoleil currently has about 85 students enrolled and it has risen each year.

“We’re not pinning this on [SD61]. We’re a public school system equal to SD61, why do we get the scraps, why do we get second choice,” Becevel said. “It’s about the facilities. [At Braefoot] we won’t have a gym or library, and we’re already underfunded. Our library is in an attic space so we can use the space as a classroom.

We know there’s pressure on SD61 to find space for kids. But it sounds like our kids don’t matter.”

“Thirty years ago we were fighting to get one building,” said Erinne Branter, mom of Elodie, another Grade 2 student.

CSF won a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of B.C. in 2016. As a result, the Ministry of Education was ordered to set up a capital expenditure system for CSF (which has about 5,700 students province-wide).

“We are a leader in the world as a bilingual country, other countries look to us, so why isn’t anyone speaking for the kids who are French, that are here now?” Becevel said.

READ MORE: School district considering Bank Street tear down

SD61 board chair Jordan Watters said the CSF and SD61 have a strong working relationship, however, can’t comment as the negotiations are in-camera.

Ministry of Education spokesperson Scott McKenzie said the ministry is committed to ensuring students have the opportunity to the same robust education in both of Canada’s official languages.

“The Ministry has the same jurisdiction with CSF as it does with all 60 school districts in B.C., by setting education policy and by providing operational and capital funding to ensure students have the best opportunity to succeed. The Ministry also assists the CSF in lease negotiations with other school districts.”

Since September of 2017, the province has funded CSF with $13.5 million to buy school sites in Kamloops and Penticton, Mckenzie noted.

reporter@oakbaynews.com