A new school building for Victoria’s youngest Francophone learners is set to spring from the Lansdowne Middle School grounds.
On Tuesday night (Oct. 5), the Greater Victoria School District announced it has sold 7.3 acres of the 25-acre Lansdowne lands to the province-wide Francophone school district, Conseil Scolaire Francophone de la Colombie-Britannique (CSF). Funds for the $15-million sale were provided by the provincial government.
CSF plans to use the site to build a new, permanent school building for Ecole Beausoleil, whose kindergarten to Grade 3 students are currently learning out of portables.
The school started in the former Sundance Elementary School on Bank Street five years ago to meet growing demand from Francophone learners. However, in 2019 the Greater Victoria School District told CSF it needed the space back and the lease for Ecole Beausoleil could only be extended to June 2021.
Since then, the school’s students have been working out of temporary portables next to Braefoot Elementary School. They will remain there while CSF erects first a temporary building on the new site, funded by $11.3 million from the province, and then a permanent one, with funding yet to be approved.
The demand for more and better learning spaces for Francophone students has grown in recent years. Speaking with Black Press Media last spring when negotiations around the Lansdowne site began, Rebecca Mellett of the Beausoleil parents association said a lack of space is pushing more Francophone learners into Anglophone schools.
“There’s no room at Victor-Brodeur, and we’re seeing parents starting to register their children outside the French school district,” she said.
A June 2020 Supreme Court decision ruled that Francophone students in Canada are entitled to receive a “truly equivalent educational experience to neighbouring majority schools.”
The sale is also good news for the Greater Victoria School District, which struggled to balance its budget without extreme cuts last spring.
“This exchange of land is a win-win partnership for all involved, optimizing the use of surplus lands to improve public education for local Francophone students while providing revenue that will flow directly back into improving Greater Victoria School District schools,” SD61 board chair Anne Whitaker said in the Tuesday news release.
No timeline has been provided yet on the building of the temporary or permanent schools, but education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said they will have more information in the near future.
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