Replacement K-12 school for École Boréale expected to open Spring 2027

Conseil scolaire Centre-Nord has been asking for a K-12 school in Fort McMurray for 19 years.

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The Alberta government is replacing École Boréale with a new K to 12 school as classrooms across Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo swell with students. Construction of the new school is expected to be finished by Spring 2027.

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Conseil scolaire Centre-Nord (CSCN) has 148 students enrolled in Fort McMurray, although space is limited and demand is growing. CSCN Board Chair Tanya Saumure says there are 1,085 potential students in Fort McMurray.

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“For the first time in almost 30 years, Francophones living in Fort McMurray will have access to a preschool to Grade 12 education under one roof, with infrastructure and programming that is much needed,” she said in an interview. “We have proper numbers to build a school that will accommodate our families up there and more to come in the future.”

Saumure says CSCN has been asking for an expanded school in Fort McMurray for 19 years. Current CSCN students in Fort McMurray attend K-8 at École Boréale. Students in Grades 9 to 12 share a space at Ecole McTavish, which is run by the Fort McMurray Public School Division (FMPSD).

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Interest is growing among newcomers and families with children born in Alberta. Statistics Canada’s 2021 census on languages found 4,390 people in Fort McMurray can have a conversation in French. French was spoken commonly at home for 670 people. The Alberta government estimates French is the Mother Tongue for roughly 88,010 Albertans.

“Transmission of language and culture is extremely important from a young age. Any rightsholder should consider a Francophone education,” said Saumure.

Franco-Albertan flag
The Franco-Albertan flag is raised outside Centre Communautaire Scolaire Boréal in Fort McMurray, Alta. on March 1, 2019. Laura Beamish/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Fort McMurray’s public and Catholic schools are running out of space, including Ecole McTavish. At the same time, Saumure says demand for a Francophone education is growing in Fort McMurray. Fort McMurray enrollment for CSCN has been steady throughout the 2016 Horse River Wildfire, COVID-19 pandemic, April 2020 flood and economic uncertainty in the oilsands.

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“It’s not ideal to have our students there. It was a temporary solution to an ongoing problem,” said Saumure. “This is much needed for us to have everyone under one roof. Francophone education and programming, which is their Constitutional right.”

Jared Gustafson, a spokesperson for Alberta Infrastructure Minister Pete Guthrie, says design work is ongoing and will be finished in early 2025. Alberta Energy Minister Brian Jean, who represents Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche as an MLA, welcomed the funding for a replacement École Boréale, as well as a new Francophone school in Plamondon and Lac La Biche.

Laila Goodridge, Conservative MP for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, said the announcement was “incredible news for our region” and praised the advocacy of Fort McMurray’s Francophone community. Goodridge is Alberta’s former Parliamentary Secretary for the Francophonie, and completed her high school and university education in French.

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“The funding for the replacement of École Boréale could not have come at a more opportune time,” said Tany Yao, UCP MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, in a statement. “I have been a strong advocate for this replacement as Fort McMurray students deserve to receive a world-class education in a school that is conducive to their learning. I look forward to seeing the positive impact this school will have on our region’s education sector, and the opportunities it will create for young Albertans.”

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