All French program coming for next year

Everything appears to be a go for establishing an all-French elementary school program here by next September, and the call is out for French-speaking families to enrol.
The Conseil Scholaire du District Catholique Aurores Boreales, the French Catholic district school board which covers an area from Marathon to the Manitoba border, needs a minimum of 12 students to start a school here.
Joanne Thiboutot-Debnam, the board’s director of education, said she sees no problem getting that many students.
“We’re definitely going to open up for September, ’99,” she said this morning as she was en route to Terrace Bay.
Alain Godin of Fort Frances, a trustee on the Catholic French language board, said the idea of having a truly French curriculum here certainly isn’t new.
“We tried last year,” he said. “We wanted to open up for September. We just fell a bit short.”
“We just found it was too fast for this September,” Thiboutot-Debnam said. “We had approximately 10-12 parents last year who were interested with six to eight firm [confirmations].
“We expect if we have a year to work on it, we’d have a dozen-plus families,” she added.
Thiboutot-Debnam said the school would be for so-called “constitutional rights children”–children who speak French as a first language or those whose parents used to speak primarily French or attended a French school.
Any other students, such as the ones now in a French Immersion program but do not come from a French-speaking background, would have to go before an admissions committee before being allowed to enrol.
“The admissions committee would be a panel of people who would interview the student and the parents and see if there’s a commitment to French language schooling,” Thiboutot-Debnam said, adding the family’s ability to understand French also evaluated since none of the communications from the school would be in English.
Another factor would be whether the school had room for the student although Thiboutot-Debnam didn’t foresee that posing any difficulties here right now.
“We’re starting out so generally we’re open to the admissions committee,” she remarked.
Because of the likely small number of students the school may have, the French language board won’t be constructing a building of its own. Instead, an arrangement has been made with the Northwest Catholic School Board to house the program in one its existing schools in town.
“It would have to be a combined class,” Godin said.
“We have a maximum of two classrooms,” Thiboutot-Debnam said. “Last year, they were offering a classroom [at St. Francis] . . . but that has to be all worked out.”
Anyone interested in enrolling their children in the school can contact the board office at 1-800-367-0874.