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After dropping Saint John as site for French school, group says Halifax to get one

The school was slated to open in the former New Brunswick Museum site in Market Square in September before the project was abandoned. (Julia Wright/CBC - image credit)
The school was slated to open in the former New Brunswick Museum site in Market Square in September before the project was abandoned. (Julia Wright/CBC - image credit)

Just over a week after developers of a French private school for Market Square in Saint John said they were abandoning the project because of construction costs, they've announced a similar school will open in Halifax in the fall.

The announcement, made in a French-language news release, said the school, Don Bosco Halifax, will operate at the Bayers Road Center in the west end of Halifax starting in September.

The Halifax school "marks a significant milestone by becoming the first French international high school in Acadia," the release said.

This statement echoed remarks made by promoters after they announced the French school would be built in Saint John. They went on to cite the importance of New Brunswick's position as Canada's only officially bilingual province.

The school was slated to open in the former New Brunswick Museum site in Market Square in September before the project was abandoned.
The school was slated to open in the former New Brunswick Museum site in Market Square in September before the project was abandoned.

The school was slated to open in the former New Brunswick Museum site in Market Square in September before the project was stopped. (Julia Wright/CBC)

Sylvain Olivier, CEO of Lycée International Français des Provinces Atlantiques, told Radio-Canada that a project was already in development in Halifax for 2025 or 2026.

But dropping the Saint John project after learning the costs would be higher than expected, accelerated the Halifax project and moved up the opening to this September.

Olivier believes Halifax is a logical choice for a school because of its population size and the presence of several cultural communities.

"We wanted to set up a high school in the Atlantic provinces in co-operation with the French embassy and President Emmanuel Macron, who wanted a French international high school in Acadia ," Olivier said to Radio-Canada in French.

Deputy mayor says development is disappointing

Deputy Mayor John Mackenzie said he was surprised by the news and "disappointed to hear one story and then hear this story."

"I understood the reason that they decided not to open the school here was because of the rising costs of construction," Mackenzie said. "I don't think that would differ in any big way in Nova Scotia.

"The only difference I see is the population base in Halifax is larger than Saint John, so maybe that's why they decided to move — not because of construction costs."

Sylvain Olivier said that Halifax is a logical choice for the Atlantic provinces for Don Bosco private school due to it's population size and presence of cultural communities.
Sylvain Olivier said that Halifax is a logical choice for the Atlantic provinces for Don Bosco private school due to it's population size and presence of cultural communities.

Sylvain Olivier said Halifax is a logical choice for a school a Don Bosco private school in the Atlantic provinces because of its size and different cultural communities. (Maude Rivard-Haustrate/Radio-Canada)

Mackenzie added that the school's developers would have been aware of these factors prior to making an announcement in Saint John and spending two years putting the deal for the Market Square project together.

"Halifax has always been larger than Saint John and when they looked around the Maritime provinces, Saint John wasn't even on their radar," he said. "They visited here, loved it and decided to do it here.

"So they knew everything going into this deal about population rates, construction costs , the whole nine yards, and at the end of the day said they couldn't do it because of construction costs."

The now-abandoned K-12 Saint John school was to be part of the Don Bosco international network of French private schools aimed at promoting bilingualism in southern and southwestern New Brunswick.