Representatives from the Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine (DSFM) were in Thompson on Sept. 17 for both a city council meeting and a parents meeting at Burntwood Elementary School.
Both Bernard Lasage, the board chair, and superintendent Denis Ferré appeared before council to speak in favour of Bylaw 1881-2012, a zoning bylaw that would allow for the former Staples building at 69 Thompson Dr. to be used as a public school.
DSMF and the School District of Mystery Lake have been in a bit of a spat over a space crunch at Burntwood Elementary School, where DSFM’s La Voie du Nord currently resides.
“As has been stated in the past, we have a two-year agreement with Mystery Lake School Division to share a school space,” said Lasage, “for obvious reasons, our numbers are growing, and from what we understand from Mystery Lake School Division, their numbers are growing as well.”
The proposed move to 69 Thompson Dr. for DSFM would be a mid-term solution, rather than long term, taking up residence for up to five years while a school of their own can be built.
“This would be a medium term solution to adhere to the needs of the parents and our students and that is why we are asking for this re-zoning and also for lease of the green space,” said Lasage.
If there is one thing that can be said for the DSFM, it’s that they are proactive, having already drawn up blueprints for the layout of the building. The over 18,000 square foot building is slated to have a gymnasium, library, music room, kindergarten area, and six classrooms. The blueprints also include a designated bus drop off area from Public Lane.
Ferré says he understands the School District of Mystery Lake’s position on needing their space back, and was hopeful that the city would agree to rezone the commercial space.
“We’ve had a good partnership with the School District of Mystery Lake, and there comes a time when everyone needs their own space and that’s understandable,” said Ferré.
The La Voie du Nord student body has grown in leaps and bounds, starting with just 33 students and now at close to 80. Lasage says he can envision the school growing into a full kindergarten to Grade 12 school within the next three years with a student population of approximately 120.
Coun. Stella Locker was in support of having DSFM move in to the building, stating that she’d much prefer the building to be a school than be empty. Coun. Penny Byer inquired as to whether the DSFM had weighed out any other options, but judging by Lasage’s response, the DSFM have put much of their hope in acquiring the Staples building.
“In terms of options, this is one that we have been putting a lot of energy in to in terms of medium term solutions,” said Lasage, “mostly because it’s a building that can easily be the answer to our needs because of the height and square footage. This building will answer the needs of our students in terms of gym space and classroom space, and gym space especially is very difficult to find anywhere else.”
Council voted unanimously in favour of second reading of Bylaw 1881-2012; the bylaw will require a third and final reading in order to pass though and allow a public school as a conditional use in a C2 central commercial zone.