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  • Madeline Kerr

Chelsea mayor pushes French school to be community ‘hub’

Chelsea Mayor Pierre Guénard says he is intent on ensuring that the village’s new French-language elementary school becomes a hub for the whole community. 


Guénard recently told the Low Down that he has been adamant during negotiations with the local school service centre (CSSPO) that the incoming school, set to open in 2026, needs to be used by the wider community, especially considering that it is set to be located on land owned by the Chelsea Foundation, a registered charity, and is already in regular use as a soccer field. He also said the municipality is looking at “reducing the amount of land required to build the school.”


“I said right away that if the school is going to go [on the Chelsea Foundation’s land], it has to be a community school,” Guénard told the Low Down. “That means the municipality can use the school after hours and in the summer, and we can make an agreement with clubs for more sports like indoor soccer, badminton, basketball and volleyball – these are sports that don’t exist here now or only on a smaller basis,” he explained.


According to Guénard, the choice of location of the school belongs entirely to the CSSPO, and unless Chelsea is willing to forfeit the opportunity to build a new school altogether, the municipality is forced to comply.


Last week, the Low Down reported that the Chelsea Foundation said it would not negotiate a sale of its land to the municipality and implored Chelsea council to reconsider their decision. The charity’s vice president, Rick Traer, pointed out that the land was gifted to the Foundation to be managed by the charity as a recreational hub “in perpetuity” and suggested that expropriating the land could set a dangerous precedent.


In June 2023, the CSSPO approved Chelsea’s bid for a new elementary school. Following discussions between the CSSPO and the municipality, the decision was made that a six-acre area near the Meredith Centre would become the chosen site. Four of the acres belong to the Chelsea Foundation, while two acres are zoned residential and belong to the Chelsea-based developer CARGO. 


‘Community school’ defined

The concept of a community school, as discussed by Guénard, began appearing in Britain and the U.S. in the 1970s, according to the Canadian educational association EdCan. The expression first appeared in Quebec in 1982 to designate a hub where the school and community work together for their mutual benefit. 


Although Guénard has said he intends to create a community school for Chelsea, this has not yet been confirmed. 


In an update published on its website on Feb. 27, the municipality states that it is currently “in discussion with the CSSPO to explore the possibility of the school becoming a community school, offering residents access to the facilities outside school hours, on weekends and during the summer season.”


The statement adds that the municipality is “also working with the CSSPO to explore ways of reducing the amount of land required to build the school and remains committed to the process.”   


“The new school would enable close to 350 children a year to continue their education in Chelsea. These children will be able to get to school by foot or by bike, as the new school will be located close to three major family neighbourhoods,” the statement continues. “Proximity to the Meredith Centre would also open up greater possibilities for the creation of recreation agreements, providing a new venue for community services outside school.”


The Low Down reached out to the CSSPO regarding the prospect of a community school in Chelsea but did not receive a response by press time. 

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