Tiny French-language school has 'a lot to offer'
Grade 4 student Mickeilla Bellekom and Grade 3 student Seth Lafleche-Deschatets visit with École Sainte-Marie principal Stacy Lafleche. The French-language school located in Simcoe will host its annual open house on Jan. 25 from 5-7 p.m. Jan. 25. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer
Being a northern Ontario native, Stacy Lafleche is accustomed to snowstorms.
As the new principal at École Sainte-Marie in Simcoe, Lafleche could've done without a blizzard the night of her first open house last year though.
While that situation put a “major branch in our wheels”, Lafleche and her staff remain committed to the only all French Catholic school in Haldimand-Norfolk.
Weather permitting, the school will be on full display for this year's open house Jan. 25 from 5-7 p.m. It will also be a chance for the public to find out exactly what the school has to offer.
“I feel people just don't know that it exists from the comments that I've gotten,” Lafleche said. “Or some people think we're a French immersion school, which we're not. That's the biggest difference that we need to make (known) because students that go through our system from elementary to secondary do come out as a bilingual person.”
The school, located on Queen Street, has about 85 students enrolled in Kindergarten through to Grade 8.
Being far removed other French-language schools, École Sainte-Marie receives transportation funding so students can share in happenings at other facilities within their school board.
“We've got so much around us and we wanted (the kids) to be able to enjoy all those things,” Lafleche explained.
The school has also used specialized funding to create a dynamic music program complete with four new pianos and a set of electric drums. With small class sizes, students are provided plenty of hands-on experience.
“The teachers don't just know the students that are in their own class, we have the opportunity to get to know every single student on a more personal level,” Lafleche said. “The teachers know what the students are doing on the weekends and they get invited to their hockey games. It gives (the school) more of that family feel.”
In athletics, École Sainte-Marie has long been home to a powerhouse volleyball program while musicians are often swinging by to give instruction. Norfolk wellness coach Amelie Chanda attends the building once per week to practice 'mindfulness' with the students – a practice focusing on breathing and stress relief.
“We have a lot to offer for a tiny school,” Lafleche points out.
Arguably the biggest advantage to attending École Sainte-Marie is the opportunities the students are afforded when going into the “real world”.
“It opens up so many doors for the students in the end if they can speak both of Canada's official languages,” Lafleche pointed out.
More information on the school is available at smn.cscmonavenir.ca.