Saskatoon Cree bilingual school to get new building
- NC Raine | September 20, 2020
Saskatoon’s only Cree bilingual school, St Frances, will soon have a new $34.5 million building to meet a growing demand for Nehiyaw language and culture in elementary grades.
“This new school will create a modern and welcoming Cree bilingual learning space for teachers and students to enjoy, to learn and to discover,” Saskatchewan Education Minister Gordon Wyant said at the September 2 funding announcement.
“Indigenous design will be at the forefront of planning as well as we will strive to create and co-create a space conducive to cultural practice and ceremonies throughout daily learning,” Wyant said.
The new school was the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools’ (GSCS) top budget request for 2020 and 2021. It will replace one on McPherson Avenue that was built in 1953.
The facility will replace the current St. Frances school, which outgrew its current 67-year-old building in the east-side Grosvenor Park neighbourhood and is now split between two locations because of overwhelming interest in the program.
The new school, set to open in 2023, will provide space for approximately 700 prekindergarten to Grade 8 students. There will also be 70 new child care spaces for young families.
“This is going to be a game changer inside the city of Saskatoon,” said Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) Chief Mark Arcand.
“We need to rally around a school system that will change kids’ lives from poverty to the richness of their culture, their language, and their identity. And a lot of our people are (currently) missing that,” he said.
The announcement marks a 14-year collaboration between STC and the GSCS.
Arcand said he's looking forward to the impact the school will have on his own children.
“My children will have an opportunity to be part of a school, to learn something I never learned. That's how we're changing systems that have been negative to First Nations people in this province.”
Wyant said the investment in the school is part of the 2020-21 budget which provides $130.4 million in funding for infrastructure projects across Saskatchewan.
Diane Boyko, GSCS Board Chair, likened the school to the heart of the community.
“Soon enough, this land we stand on today will be filled with song and the beat of a drum that sounds like a beating heart. And that's really what this school is going to be – the heart of the community and a hub of activity,” said Boyko.
“No longer will an outdated, overcrowded facility be a barrier to this school community reaching it's full potential.”