After years of instability, the controversial Ã‰cole Sans-FrontiÃ¨res school in Lloydminster has finally found a long-term resolution.
As of the 2015-16 school year, Ã‰cole Sans-FrontiÃ¨res will operate under the Conseil scolaire Centre-Nord board in Alberta, after being part of the Conseil des Ã‰coles Fransaskoises division in Saskatchewan since its inception.
“The francophone board in Saskatchewan was saying, ‘Why is it that we are operating a school, where two-thirds of the kids are from a different province?’ said Henri Lemire, superintendent, Conseil scolaire Centre-Nord.”
The stability of Ã‰cole Sans-FrontiÃ¨res appeared murky from the start, as the Saskatchewan and Alberta governments could never get on the same page regarding the school’s funding.
The Saskatchewan government was opposed to the idea of investing in a school beyond the public and catholic divisions, in which the vast majority of students were from another province.
Alberta argued that the School Act in both provinces guaranteed students the right to education in French-first language schools. Since education falls under Saskatchewan’s jurisdiction as part of the Lloydminster Charter, Saskatchewan was responsible for most of the funding.
However, the charter only covered schools in the public and catholic divisions, making Ã‰cole Sans-FrontiÃ¨res a grey area.
“The governments did not agree that the francophone school should be part of the Lloydminster Charter,” Lemire said. “So the francophone board in Saskatchewan operated the school at a significant annual deficit because they felt that they weren’t getting full funding from Alberta.”
The two sides battled in court, where a ruling sided with Alberta, allowing Ã‰cole Sans-FrontiÃ¨res to open and operate on the Alberta side, but under Saskatchewan’s jurisdiction, meaning they had to provide the majority of the funding.
According to Lemire, low-level discussions about the school’s future began in April 2014, before escalating that June. On March 27, 2015, the francophone board in Saskatchewan served notice to parents that they would be closing the school at the end of this school year due to its unsustainable financial conditions.
“As part of that announcement to parents, they then invited (the Alberta) board to accept the transfer and we did,” Lemire said. “Our board is larger. We have over 3,000 kids and we feel that we’ll have the capacity to serve them. It was more difficult for the Saskatchewan board because of their smaller numbers.”
Paperwork to make the transfer official will be filed on July 2. Ã‰cole Sans-FrontiÃ¨res has already started searching for a new principal.
The school will switch over to the Alberta curriculum, which will create some challenges for students. Lemire says that social studies will be most impacted, while subjects like math and science won’t go through much change, if any. New textbooks for all grade levels will be required.
Ã‰cole Sans-FrontiÃ¨res teaches kindergarten to Grade 8, but will likely accommodate Grade 9 next year for the one current eighth-grader that plans to return.
About 48 kids attend the school and around 36 of them are from Alberta.