Kimberley’s new French school has its first week of class on Tuesday, Sept. 7.
The school is located in the same building as Purcell Preschool in Meadowbrook, with the French classrooms in the back of the building and Purcell in the front. Students from both schools will share the gym.
The as of yet unnamed school will accept students from Kindergarten to Grade 6 who have a parent that is a French-language rights holder. There are currently 10 students enrolled, ranging from Kindergarten to Grade 3.
The school is a part of Conseil Scolaire Francophone (CSF), School District 93, and rather than a French immersion school, it is an entirely French school. English class starts at Grade 4, taught as a second-language class.
Elena Lamarre, the school’s principal, explained that in the second half of 2017, a group of parents made a bid for a French school in the Kimberley area — a bid which was accepted.
They had enough students, but ran into a location issue: they weren’t able to find a suitable location in time, so the school didn’t open.
However, just a couple of months ago, Marie-Christine Cadeiux, a Kimberley resident and member of the Association of Parents, decided to restart the project.
She asked CSF to open a French school in Kimberley, which found a suitable location at Purcell Elementary and now the school will be opening its doors.
Lamarre says that for Cadieux and other parents, this is “a dream come true.”
Originally from Quebec, Lamarre had never travelled to western Canada before, but when she saw the posting for Principal at the new school — with the opportunity to also be in the classrooms — and had heard of everything that had happened for it to become a reality, she knew she had to come here.
“To see people stand together to help their kids learn in their maternal language is important for everyone,” Lamarre said. “But Kimberley community is so welcoming. For us, yes we are a French school, but we want to collaborate with everyone, French, English, we don’t care.”
This will be Lamarre’s 23rd year in the education system. She was previously teaching in a little school in the village of Hemmingford, Que, which has both a French and an English school.
“We started collaborating and it was so rich and for the culture, the kids, the parents, everyone came together because no matter what language you’re talking we’re all in the same boat, in the same community, so why not be grateful for all that diversity,” Lamarre said. “Come together and do some projects and it’s what I want to do with our French school.”
The school still needs a name, but Lamarre said she they don’t want to pick a name for the sake of picking a name. She said they want to talk to City Council and to the First Nations people of this area, learn about Kimberley’s history from as many perspectives as possible before deciding a name.
“We’ll ask for help from the community, even if doesn’t end up being a French name,” she said. “We want to help the French community to grow and to be known and to become better and bigger, but we don’t want to be in our corner, we want to be with everyone. Because Kimberley is like that. You have a magic in your village.”
The school has one teacher who will be teaching all the grades, and Lamarre will be helping her throughout the week. They are currently trying to hire a secretary and someone to watch the students during lunchtime.
The building needed a lot of renovations and painting, and staff made sure to go out and buy everything all the students will need, regardless of age or ability level.
“Everyone, with whatever the need the kid has, we will answer to it and we will be very happy to,” Lamarre said. “So we will be very well equipped, don’t worry about that.”
She said when she came in July, she was a little overwhelmed with how much work there was to do, with not a lot of time to do it. But that spirit of collaboration she spoke about already came to fruition, and parents and people from Purcell Preschool came together to get everything done.
“I would not be anywhere else than here,” Lamarre said. “For me it’s a dream come true to be a principal in a French school, but in a minority community, for me I just love the collaboration between every community and when they come together it’s so much fun, so pleasant, the kids have so much to learn about. And it’s just magic.
“Being a teacher, for me, it’s the best thing you can do in your life. They say teach, is love. In French: enseigner c’est aimer.
“If you teach you cannot be cold and insensitive. You want to give everything in your gut to help the kids and that they learn and they be happy and they’re secure. That’s what’s magical about it.”