Pemberton’s future French-speaking school École la Vallée took one more step towards breaking ground after more discussion was had at the Village of Pemberton (VOP) council meeting on Oct. 5.
The main issue holding up the project was the obligation of Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique (CSF) and School District No. 93 to deliver a public bridge over Pemberton Creek as part of the development.
In a Sept. 7 letter to the VOP, CSF informed council members that it was not able to secure funding for the Pemberton Creek Crossing and thus were unable to complete all requirements outlined by the VOP on June 3.
The letter went on to say that the CSF will continue to seek government funding for the bridge, but asked council to continue working collaboratively with the CSF to develop a plan for the Pemberton Creek crossing that “meets the financial limits of both the Village and the CSF including the willingness to seek alternate funding sources.”
This development project for a new French-speaking school has earned overwhelming support from both council and community members, as demonstrated at a public hearing on Sept. 21.
Of 27 total written and voice submissions for the public hearing on the topic of the new school, 26 were in support of the bylaws, and only one opposed.
“I just want to tell you how happy we are and how proud we are to have the chance today to speak to the council and to see that you are working to make our community and the community of Pemberton, have a second language [school],” said Michel St-Amant, superintendent of School District No. 93.
“As part of the community, we are happy to find a permanent home in Pemberton. It’s more than time that we have a chance to have full school services and to be part of the community.”
In response to CSF’s request to work together to seek alternate funding sources, a report was submitted to council from Pemberton’s manager of development services Lisa Pedrini. It proposed officially amending Bylaw No. 903 to remove the requirement on CSF to build the bridge and replace it with a more collaborative approach between VOP staff, adjacent landowners and the provincial government to deliver the Pemberton Creek crossing.
Council ultimately approved the amendment, but not before Coun. Amica Antonelli raised concerns about the potential for the project to now fall on community fundraisers.
“At the public hearing I heard a lot of parents saying, ‘We’ll fundraise for the bridge, we want our school,’ and I really understand that. I want to support the school, and I do through this. But I just wanted to say that I don’t think it’s the responsibility of the parents to fundraise for that bridge,” she said.
“That bridge was an obligation of the developer, the adjacent landowner, and I just don’t want that to be forgotten. I don’t want the obligation now transferred to moms in Pemberton, because that’s not the way we should be operating.
“From my perspective, it is really important to get those kids off the railway bridge and off the highway bridge. So, I’m satisfied with the wording, ‘continue to collaborate with these parties,’ so I’ll support it because I understand how much the community wants the school, but I am really disappointed how this bridge may or may not be coming for now.”
Coun. Antonelli’s concerns were seconded by Coun. Ted Craddock, who added that he supports the school going ahead but wants to see, “the adjacent land owner be more responsible for the costs” as it was stated in the original proposal.