A dispute over space at Burntwood Elementary School has come to the forefront, with the School District of Mystery Lake telling the Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine (DSFM) that they must vacate the space at Burntwood School at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.
Jodee Mason, press secretary to cabinet, told the Thompson Citizen in an e-mail June 18, "As education minister, Minister (Nancy) Allan has a responsibility to ensure all students are in school and are receiving a quality education."
"The minister directed DSFM and MLSD to agree on a short term solution which would see the DSFM students continue to be housed at Burntwood Elementary School until DSFM has a permanent location.
"At the same time, the minister directed her officials to work with the DSFM on finding a new location for its school in Thompson, outside of Burntwood Elementary. She also committed to continue working with MLSD to strengthen public education in Thompson."
If SDML have their way, Burntwood School will no long play host to the DSFM's La Voie Du Nord as of June 30. DSFM was originally supposed to have only 30 students, they have more than doubled in size to 69. The Manitoba Department of Education has stepped in with a new contract that would extend the DSFM's stay until 2014, but SDML representatives have refused to sign it.
SDML acting superintendent Angèle Bartlett and board chair Alexander Ashton spoke with the department on June 1, and now find themselves playing hardball.
The space issue has come to a head with the construction of new townhouses across the street from Burntwood Elementary School, which is expected to create an influx of new students. It is expected that Burntwood may see as many as 50 new students, for whom there is no space.
"It's not fair for us to tell these kids they have to find another school to go to when they live two minutes across the street," said SDML trustee Janet Brady.
Brady, while careful not to sound callous, says that the issue of where the DSFM students will go is not in the hands of the SDML.
"They have their own board, and it's up to them to figure out what they are going to do with those students," said Brady.
DSFM have 22 schools throughout Manitoba, with their current location at Burntwood School being the 22nd. They began renting the space in 2010 when Burntwood had available empty space, but as it stands, the board needs the space back for their own students.
With the new housing development going up across the road from Burntwood Elementary School, it's estimated that La Voie Du Nord could see an intake of up to 20 students, on top of the close to 50 that Burntwood could see.
There is another conference call to be scheduled between SDML and the Department if Education in Winnipeg to break the impasse.
"Two weeks ago we had put forth the proposals to the ministry," said Bartlett. "One was that Burntwood couldn't provide any more space to the DSFM, and the other was that they needed to vacate by the end of the school year in 2013."
Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine Superintendent Denis Ferre and Minister of Education Nancy Allan couldn't be reached for comment by the Thompson Citizen as of press time June 19.