Chelsea to get new French School
Plans to build a new French-language elementary school in the heart of Chelsea have moved “one step closer” to becoming a reality, according to a press release from the municipality issued on Sept 28.
The release states that after “numerous discussions between the municipality of Chelsea and the Centre de services scolaires des Portages-de-l’Outaouais (CSSPO), the site target could be located at the intersection of Chemin du Relais and Chemin Cecil.”
The statement goes on to explain that “the municipality has already begun discussions with the owners of the land concerned, with a view to acquiring it.”
In other words, the placement of the school hasn’t yet been secured, although both the municipality and CSSPO have expressed that the location would be ideal given its proximity to the Meredith Centre and new housing developments where many families with young children live. One potential downside is the fact that the proposed site already includes a soccer field, belonging to the Chelsea Foundation, which the municipality says it would relocate somewhere else “in the heart of the centre-village.”
According to director-general for CSSPO, Nadine Peterson, multiple possible locations were initially considered. Municipal spokesperson Maude Prud’homme-Seguin told the Low Down: “When it comes to choosing a site, the CSSPO has its own specific criteria. For example, the site must be located less than 1.6 kilometres from the centre-village, be connected to the water supply network, etc.”
The municipality has a reason to want to expedite the process. The population of Chelsea is growing rapidly. According to Statistics Canada, the population of the municipality of Chelsea jumped from 6,909 to 8,000 between the 2016 and 2021 censuses.
Furthermore, citing data collected by the CSSPO, Prud’homme-Seguin told the Low Down “by 2026, there will be a shortfall of about 300 places in a French-language school” within Chelsea.
The projected date for the new school’s opening is 2026, and it will be able to accommodate around 350 children in 16 classes ranging from Kindergarten through Grade 6.
Chelsea’s only other French elementary school, École du Grand Boisé, has previously told the Low Down that it has a capacity of up to 600 students, although this can fluctuate based on the composition of numbers across grade levels.
In June 2022, the Low Down reported that the school could not accommodate all Grade 4 students in the community and was asking families to voluntarily send their children to Hull instead.
When asked where the projected 300 students needing places in a French-language school would go until the new school is built in 2026, Peterson told the Low Down that space would be found at Grand Boisé through necessary rearrangements of classrooms and class compositions.
In March 2019, the former Chelsea council asked the school service centre for a new school to be built in the municipality and sent that request to other Quebec government officials.
The Quebec Education Ministry denied that request in 2021. As of last June, the municipality hadn’t renewed their original bid, although the announcement that a new school will be built is evidence that a new, more recent bid has been submitted and approved.
Prud’homme-Seguin told the Low Down that “negotiations are currently underway to establish a purchase price for the lots.” Peterson could not confirm the projected cost of the new school building, which will be paid for through Quebec grants and school taxes.