Province awards $5.7M to build new home for French Catholic elementary school

JOCELYNE CALOZ

City Council approved the demolition of the chapel wing of the Deschâtelets Building to facilitate sale of the building to the French Catholic school board. Image by CECCE

City Council approved the demolition of the chapel wing of the Deschâtelets Building to facilitate sale of the building to the French Catholic school board. Image by CECCE


The Centre-East French Catholic School Board (CECCE) has received a $5.7 million grant from the provincial government to fund the construction costs of the new home of the Au Coeur d’Ottawa Catholic elementary school in the refurbished Deschâtelets Building. The school is currently housed in De Mazenod, an old school building located at the corner of Graham Avenue and Main Street.

The announcement of the new funding came at a press conference on October 26 attended by representatives of CECCE, the City and the provincial Ministry of Education. Réjean Sirois, CECCE’s Director of Education, said the provincial funding announcement is the culmination of three years of efforts and meetings to provide the Au Coeur d’Ottawa students with a permanent school facility.

According to Sirois, the new Au Coeur d’Ottawa school will have 351 student places and 39 French-language childcare spaces and will permit the school to accommodate children from kindergarten to grade eight, whereas the school currently has 150 students and offers the only kindergarten to grade six classes. Au Coeur d’Ottawa will continue to offer a reimagined teaching model inspired by Finnish educators which advocates physical activities, frequent outings around the school and the community, outdoor learning, daily relaxation breaks and informal learning of a third language. The Deschâtelets Building and its surroundings provide a perfect environment for this kind of learning, Sirois told the news conference. Valérie Assoi, CECCE School

Trustee, stressed the partnership needed for the project to succeed, noting, in particular, the efforts of the Old Ottawa East (OOE) Community Association, the OOE Community Activities Group, the Regional Group, which currently owns the building, and Councillor Shawn Menard. Assoi also thanked parents and community members for their efforts to highlight the need for a French-language Catholic elementary school in the heart of the nation’s capital.

A modern gymnasium will be built just to the north of the Deschâtelets Building and will serve the students as well as the community. The City of Ottawa and the school board were unwilling to convert the to-be demolished chapel wing of the Deschâtelets Building to a gymnasium due to costs and other factors.

Children and parents within OOE’s Francophone community were pleased that quality programs in French will continue to be available in the area. Sirois added that staff members of Au Coeur d’Ottawa hope to move to their new location as soon as possible, by September 2021, if not before, depending on the timetable for construction and renovation work at the Deschâtelets Building.

The new school will “fill a void” for the Francophone Catholic community throughout the Glebe, Centretown and Old Ottawa East and South, noted Marc Bertrand, CECCE’s director of facilities.

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