Pemberton parents are rejoicing after their years of campaigning may finally result in a new building for L’Ecole La Vallée de Pemberton. A permanent home will be built for francophone families in the area, catering to K-12 students.
“Pemberton has a thriving francophone community that will benefit from a permanent new school closer to families who need it,” said Rachna Singh, B.C.’s Minister of Education, in a release on Sept. 5. “With funding now in place, we can start developing a modern school that francophone students and their families have been waiting for.”
The parents association (APÉ) was instrumental in getting funding for the new school building. Pemberton French students are currently studying in a variety of buildings in the community, including portables at Signal Hill Elementary. The new school will create 220 new student seats and may add as many as 150 new seats in the future.
The Province provided the Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique (CSF) with $3.2 million for the school, which will be located north of Highway 99 before entering the Village in the Tiyata development.
A representative for the CSF, the French-speaking public school board, told Pique they were hoping to complete the build in just four years. Students could walk into the new school for the 2027-28 academic year if all goes to plan. “The target is to complete the project by Spring/Summer 2027,” they said. “These are target dates only and subject to change as the project proceeds.”
APÉ president, Andrée-Anne Tardif, said parents have been pushing for the school for more than a decade. “Parents have campaigned in Vancouver and lobbied in front of the CSF offices,” she said. “We have constantly been in communication with the CSF to make ourselves seen. We have a very active French community in Pemberton and we don’t have a school building.”
Tardif believes just seeing the efforts the parents have gone through will have a positive impact on the kids. “They are seeing the efforts that we are putting in. It’s for the future of the community,” she said. “Everyone will benefit from a beautiful new school building. The portables look a bit scary.”
The temporary buildings previously had problems with mice, Tardif added. She also stressed that going from building to building can waste a lot of the school day. “In the winter, kids have to go from their classroom to the community centre to go the gym. They have to dress and undress. There is a lot of time wasted,” she said.
When asked if the school had experienced problems with mice, a representative for CSF said the current situation for Francophone students was “not equivalent to Anglophone students.”
Former APÉ president, Kristi Thomas, believes the current deadline for the new build is optimistic. “Knowing the CSF and how slow the process can be, I’d say that could be a pretty aggressive goal,” she said.
Her kids are now attending Whistler Secondary, but Thomas said she wishes they had the opportunity to complete their full education in French. “Both of my kids are fluent, which is amazing,” she said. “They have been given that language they might not have otherwise had.”
The school will also have a daycare facility, a fantastic asset to young Pemberton families.