The territory’s francophone school board has launched a campaign to raise $150,000 for equipment to outfit newly constructed buildings at Yellowknife’s École Allain St-Cyr.

A gymnasium, a stage, and an industrial kitchen, all attached to the school, are being built through $12.8 million in territorial funding.

However, the government cash does not cover equipment to go inside each space.

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On Tuesday, the Commission scolaire francophone began raising $150,000 to cover the costs of a gym scoreboard, cooking utensils, and sound and light systems for the stage.

Yvonne Careen, the school board’s superintendent, urged Yellowknifers to back the project. Careen said the finished facilities would become a “community venue” available for evening and weekend use through the City’s booking system, creating valuable new spaces for local residents.

“There are peak times where gymnasiums are not available, so this will be another option for the community,” Careen told Cabin Radio. “Most of the kitchen spaces in town are older – this one will be brand new.

“For the francophone community itself this will be a very big boost. There will be a centre where we are able to regroup and come together as a community for different events.

“We know we won’t be able to win everybody over but we hope to be able to get the support that we need.”

Sema Jalil Aga, left, and Andrea Geraghty, both 12, host a presentation on new buildings at Yellowknife's Ecole Allain St-Cyr, where they are students
Sema Jalil Aga, left, and Andrea Geraghty, both 12, host a presentation on new buildings at Yellowknife’s Ecole Allain St-Cyr, where they are students. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

Facility provision for the territory’s francophone schools has been a sensitive subject for more than a decade.

Back in 2005, a group of parents took the territory to court and won the right to an expansion of École Allain St-Cyr. The case was reactivated in 2009, with the francophone community arguing that a promised second-phase expansion had never materialized.

Throughout that time, École Allain St-Cyr has borrowed classrooms from neighbouring William McDonald Middle School and sent students either to Yellowknife’s multiplex gym or gymnastics club for physical education classes.

“At this time, we have excellent relations with the Minister of Education,” said Careen on Tuesday. “We are working very well with the Department of Education where the construction is concerned and where everything else is concerned. The working relationships are excellent.

“What is going to be so beneficial for us is that we will be able to timetable with our needs in mind, not with everybody else’s constraints in mind.”

‘More banners’

Students at the school echoed that sentiment.

“I love to do sports and we haven’t had a gym for a long time – and I’ve been here since I was yay-high,” said 12-year-old Andrea Geraghty, who helped to present a news conference on the fundraising campaign. “So I’m really excited to get into the gym.”

Sema Jalil Aga, who helped Geraghty with master-of-ceremonies duty, agreed. “We often have our practices at William Mac or the multiplex,” said the 12-year-old. “It would be really nice to have them here so we can get more practices in and have more banners.”

A space for high school students to relax is also factored into the new building, which has been under construction since July 2017. Equipment is needed by the end of this year to facilitate an early 2019 grand opening.

“We always have to stay in our class or be in the library right now, so that will be fun,” said 12-year-old Lea Schwarz.

Donations to the $150,000 fund can be taken through a GoFundMe page set up by the school board. A dinner gala at the school, at a date to be confirmed, will also raise funds for the project, as will a fundraising walk by students in early February.

Individuals or businesses who donate in excess of $20,000 will receive their name and logo on the gymnasium scoreboard.

“We know the community needs this space and we know we can count on the generosity of northerners to make this space truly usable,” said Simon Cloutier, the school board’s president.

“We want to be open and ready for business in early 2019, and for that to happen, everyone needs to come to the table.”

Correction: January 17 2018, 9:31 MT. Based on materials distributed by Ecole Allain St-Cyr, the first version of this article made reference to the school board receiving both federal and territorial funding. The school board has since clarified that only territorial funding was received.