Changes coming to St. Mary

A few St. Mary graduates and staff pose for a photo during the awards portion of Wednesday’s graduation ceremony at the Art Hauser Centre. -- Herald file photo.

The Prince Albert Catholic School Division (PACSD) has one of the highest per capita rates of French Immersion students in the province, and that number will soon be reflected in the name of their largest high school.

Starting in January 2018, St. Mary High School will become École St. Mary High School, a decision made to better represent available French programming.

PACSD education director Lorel Trumier said it’s an exciting change that highlights and growing part of the education system.

“Currently when you say St. Mary High School, you think it would only be an English stream of programming,” Trumier explained. “So the (name change) gives a better opportunity for our new students, who are potentially looking at St. Mary, to understand that we have dual-track … where students can finish their high school with a French Immersion certificate and graduate with that honour.”

Roughly 240 of the 1,047 students at St. Mary are enrolled in the French Immersion program, with a total of 871 French Immersion students across the school division.

Trumier said they expect that number to get bigger as more and more families opt for French-language education.

“In our world it’s significant when we have three per cent population growth over a two to three year period,” she explained. “We’re at approximately a third (of students taking French Immersion), whereas a few years ago we were at 25 per cent.”

A new name might not be the only change coming to St. Mary. On Oct. 16, the Catholic trustees voted to apply for provincial funding to add portable classrooms to the school over the next fives years.

Financial details of the project are pending government approval.

Trumier said St. Mary currently has enough space for all enrolled students. The board simply wanted to make sure that continues to be the case.

“In the next five years we are anticipating 100 students, so we would like to be in a position to continue to have that growth to occur,” she said. “It’s just a projection. We’ve grown by 100 this year and we’re very pleased about that, so like I said, we’re just putting ourselves in a position to (continue).”

Trumier added that the request could take a few years to be approved, making it necessary to approve a board motion well in advance.

After falling slightly last school year, enrolment at St. Mary grew by almost 100 students in 2017.