Teens attending French Catholic school in Dryden, Ignace and Red Lake will soon be able to continue with French Catholic school locally past Grade 8.
The Aurores Boréales school board, which operates 10 French-language Catholic schools from Red Lake to Marathon, has announced the creation of a satellite secondary school system starting in the 2024-25 school year.
Students will be able to attend classes high school classes at École Immaculée-Conception in Ignace, École catholique de l’Enfant-Jésus in Dryden and a location to be determined in Red Lake.
Presently the board has just one secondary school, ESC de La Verendrye in Thunder Bay.
The board has too few students in the other communities “to justify the building of a high school,” education superintendent Marie-France Tousignant said Friday.
“But we found a middle ground in virtual school learning from our experience during the pandemic,” she said.
“We didn’t want to have students isolated at home and … missing out on all the social aspects of school, which is very beneficial to their mental health.
“So we came up with the satellite option, which will allow students to take the bus every day, go to school, be welcomed by caring adults and have a little bit more structure and supervision than (in virtual learning from home).”
The satellite locations will have on-site staff and “a typical high school schedule,” according to a news release from the board.
The new program is “inspired by” a similar program in Manitoba, where “apparently it works really well,” Tousignant said.
In its first year it will likely have about 10 students, she said.
This is just the first phase of the satellite school program, she said. The board plans a Phase 2 for locations in the eastern part of the school district in 2025.
Board chair Claudette Gleeson described the move as “a big step for the Francophonie in the Northwest,” adding that “parents expressed a need, and we are responding.”