French-only school opens in Collingwood 0
Francophone singer Michele Paiement sings with students at new french catholic elementary school Notre-Dame-de-la-Huronie on Tuesday September 4, 2012.
Back-to-school this week was historic for the students attending Collingwood's first French school.
Notre-Dame-de-la-Huronie opened its doors for the first time Tuesday to welcome almost 60 students from junior kindergarten to Grade 6.
During a ceremony for parents held at the end of the school day, and mostly conducted in French, the school's principal Mélissa Villella said it was an important day for the community.
“It's a historic day for all the francophone of the region Collingwood/Wasaga beach,” she said.
“It has been about a year, a group of parents approached the CSDCCS (Le Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud) to claim their constitutional right to French education. The council responded to that call and today we have a true citizen community school.”
The school worked with the New Life Brethren in Christ Church for their facility, and other assistance has been provided by the town's French Connection group and French radio station Vague FM.
The ceremony was a stop on CSDCCS director of education Réjean Sirois' tour of new schools in the region.
“It's a success,” he told the E-B in French. “It's above my expectations. It's a success but thanks to the dedication of the parents and the education council that met the demands of the parents. We are really proud of what has happened here today.”
Collingwood Mayor Sandra Cooper said her French was a bit rusty but still made the effort to address the staff, parents, and students in french during the festivities.
“It's with great pride to assist with the opening day of the new elementary catholic school Notre-Dame-de-la-Huronie,” she said. “The students are pioneers of Collingwood and Wasaga Beach.”
Cooper told the E-B about the importance of having French education.
“When I am in other parts of even Ontario, the French language is a language that would be very beneficial, and it will be to the children here,” she said. “I can speak about economic development, the global economy, and the globe itself and how various language is just beneficial. The job opportunities for these children as they develop a better French education program is just priceless.”
After the addresses, the students performed “Ouendake” along with francophone singer-composer Michel Paiement.
“The children all day were all smiles. They had a good time and we started the school with a lot of singing, which is a large cultural activity,” said Villella. “I think that when we talk about any language, or anything we do, we start with the heart and we do it with singing and there is no better way to go.”
Collingwood resident Susan Byles sent her son, in junior kindergarten, to the new school even though she and husband speak little French.
“I'm happy they have created this opportunity in Collingwood,” she said. “I think it's important for kids to learn a new language, or any language, at a young age, as young as possible and this allowed him that opportunity.”
Villella said going forward she hopes “the children are happy, healthy, and safe and that we continue to get bigger and better and that we strive for excellence in whatever we do.”
As the last school bus departed, the staff and teachers applauded a successful first day.