Parents hope French school opens near Annapolis Royal

Francophone education is still limited in rural Nova Scotia despite interest from Annapolis Royal.

By Tari Wilson

Deputy Minister of Education, Rosalind Penfound, and Mark Bannerman discuss future French schools in Nova Scotia (Tari Wilson photo)

Monik Richard didn’t imagine her children commuting two hours a day when she pictured them going to an all-French school.

Her daughters are aged two and three. Richard is hoping a new school will be open to Francophone families in Annapolis Royal and Digby before their first day of class.

Along with five other families, Richard made a request for a French school to Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial in January.

“Being Francophone myself, it was really important for me to maintain the culture, heritage and language within my own family,” says Richard, “and even though I started my family in Nova Scotia I don’t want my children to be assimilated into only being able to speak English.”

Currently, the closest French schools to Annapolis Royal are an hour away in Greenwood and Meteghan River.

Deputy Minister of Education, Rosalind Penfound, understands parents like Richard who don’t want their young children travelling long distances.

“The distance is a challenge because there is only so much time you want your child sitting on a bus,” says Penfound.

Mark Bannerman is the Manager of Acadian and French Language Services. He points out that Nova Scotia’s francophone families are scattered across the province, unlike in provinces like Manitoba where there are only three francophone areas.

Related Resources
Annapolis Royal and Digby Statistics
Nova Scotia Francophone Community

There is strong interest in Annapolis Royal for a French school and Richard says the parents are going to recruit other families from the Digby area over the next two months.

“There is no magical number of students before we set up a French school and after one is set up we lead by ear to see what grades are in demand,” says Richard Landry, spokesperson for the Acadian School Board.

The first step is putting in place the Grandir en Français program for pre-primary children, says Landry

To attend the pre-primary program, or a French school, the child has to have at least one French-speaking parent or grandparent.

Penfound says that parents who are passionate about their children attending a French school have made a difference.

“Interestingly the CSAP is the only school board seeing an increase of enrolment across the province,” says Penfound.

The three most recent CSAP school openings have taken place since 2010 are in Bedford, Cookville and Porters Lake.

École des Beaux-Marais in Porters Lake was school number 21 for the French school board. Landry says it opened quickly after parents expressed interest. Now the school has 15 students in pre-primary and 12 students in primary.

Richard is optimistic a French school will open soon for her daughters as well. She has begun noticing that her eldest daughter has to be prompted to respond in French after going to an English daycare for a year.

“I can already see that if this kept going for another five years that it would be likely that she would forget how to speak French, she’d probably understand it, but wouldn’t speak it fluently,” says Richard.

Related audio
Monik Richard 

Monik Richard talks about why she wants a French school for her children.