Two francophone high schools officially open new building in Kingston

Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson is flanked by the Superintendents of Education as he congratulates and welcomes the schools to their new space in the Kingston community. Photo by Cris Vilela/Kingstonist.

On Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE) and the Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO) held a grand opening ceremony for the new home of Kingston’s two francophone high schools, the CECCE’s child care and EarlyON centres, and the Centre Culturel Frontenac.

The principals of École secondaire catholique Sainte-Marie-Rivier and École secondaire to publique Mille-Îles provided tours of the new building, located 1290 Wheathill Road, to local community partners, elected officials, and media representatives. According to a press release from CEECE and CEPEO, visitors toured each of the schools along with the facilities shared by all students: a cafeteria, a library, science labs, two gyms, and a weight room

Steven Lecce, Ontario Minister of Education, was to attend the ceremony in person, however, John Jordan, Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, attended in Lecce’s place.

“We are determined to build schools and expansions faster, part of our commitment to modernize schools in fast-growing communities,” Lecce said in a statement provided by the school boards.

“We are proud to deliver a new state-of-the-art joint-use facility consisting of École secondaire publique Mille-Îles and École secondaire catholique Sainte-Marie-Rivier for Kingston families, along with increasing funding, staffing, and a back-to-basics focus on reading, writing, and math skills to help ensure students graduate with confidence that they can succeed in good-paying careers.”

CECCE Chair Johanne Lacombe stated that she is pleased that this important undertaking has come to fruition.

“Kingston’s francophone community has been anticipating this moment. I am so happy for Sainte-Marie-Rivier students, who can now pursue their learning in an extremely stimulating, state-of-the-art facility,” she said.

“In addition, families will now have access to a CECCE child care centre and EarlyON centre, where even the youngest children can learn and play in French,” added CECCE Trustee Michel Charron.

“Kingston’s francophone community is strong and vibrant, and this facility will enable local francophones and francophiles to strengthen their identity.”

Construction of this new building began in March 2021, and it opened just in time for the 2023-2024 school year. According to the release, the new building would not have been possible without the provincial government’s $36.7 million contribution, and $1,251,000 from the federal government for community facilities.

Amine H. Aïdouni, CEPEO Superintendent of Education (left) and Danielle Chatelain, CECCE Superintendent of Education, address those in attendance at the grand opening. Photo by Cris Vilela/Kingstonist.

“Today’s ceremony marks the beginning of a new era for Kingston’s francophone community,” said Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE) Director of Education Marc Bertrand. “This grand opening represents a solid new pillar upholding francophone culture and education in the region. I am delighted to be celebrating this major step forward with so many community partners, such as the Centre Culturel Frontenac. We will be strengthening those ties in the years to come, and students and the community will reap the benefits.”

Both French school boards thanked the Ontario Ministry of Education and the federal government who have “been valuable allies in this project to serve French-speaking families in Kingston,” according to the release. In addition, the CECCE expressed gratitude for the $2.2 million in provincial government funding which enabled the construction of its Early Childhood Center and its EarlyON Center. The two school boards also thanked Kingston City Council, whose collaboration was greatly appreciated, particularly with regard to the construction of the new Gerard Hunt Memorial Park near the school.

“I am sincerely grateful to the Government of Ontario for its immeasurable support in making our vision for this new École secondaire publique Mille-Îles a reality,” said CEPEO Chair Samia Ouled Ali. “The government’s contribution is a testament to its commitment to francophone education.”

“This grand opening marks a significant milestone in the delivery of modern and innovative francophone education,” added CEPEO Vice-Chair Pierre Tessier. “The cutting-edge facilities and equipment speak to our steadfast dedication to providing our students with an outstanding learning environment. We are very proud of these well-designed spaces that will inspire students and teachers alike.”

“We are excited to be starting a fresh chapter in the CEPEO’s history with the new École secondaire publique Mille-lles,” said Acting CEPEO Director of Education Stéphane Vachon. “This grand opening symbolizes our commitment to offering environments where students can their academic, creative, and personal best.”

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