Town on the Gaspé Peninsula gets new English school after months of dangerous conditions


The town of New Carlisle on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula is getting a new English school nearly a year after a report found asbestos, mold and lead pipes in the current building.

The new school will have the capacity to accommodate 145 students, from preschool to grade 11. Jonatan Julien, the minister responsible for Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, announced Friday that the province will devote $32 million to the project.

“It’s a very exciting day,” said Wade Gifford, chair of the Eastern Shores School Board. “Finally, after tremendous effort from different people, we’ve managed to get what will be the most exciting news you’ve heard in a long time.”

Wade Gifford, chairman of the Eastern Shores School Board, said he was extremely excited about opening a new English school for the New Carlisle community. (Isabelle Larose/Radio Canada)

The announcement was indeed well received by the city’s English-speaking community.

“The children deserve this new school, they need a new look with everything that [they] been through,” said Cindy Carney, whose son is in 8th grade at the school.We’re really looking forward to it.”

The school’s principal, Ian Gilker, said he was very pleased that the government had agreed to invest in the education of New Carlisle’s children. “Knowing that people are aware of our needs and are responding to them is great,” he said.

New Carlisle High School was built in the center of town in 1914.

The building slowly deteriorated over time, until the health risks became so severe that the school board closed it for emergency renovations last December.

But even after it reopened a few months later, Carney said she couldn’t help but worry about her child. With plastic sheeting on the walls in some rooms and hallways, it “felt a bit like a haunted house,” she said.

Years of dangerous conditions

Generations of New Carlisle residents have attended New Carlisle High School, which was built over 100 years ago. (Isabelle Larose/Radio Canada)

The board had been advocating for a new school for years, chief executive Hugh Wood said. He said they had applied for funding several times but were unsuccessful until this year.

The school board commissioned a building inspection last year, hoping it would help it advocate for new space.

When consulting engineers from Groupe Gesfor examined the school, they found that ambient carbon dioxide levels exceeded the government’s maximum threshold for safe exposure in almost half of the rooms they studied.

Eighty-four students had to be relocated due to poor air quality.

Carney, who also chairs the school’s board of trustees, said she felt uneasy when she learned how serious the situation was. “When your kids are in a school, you hope it’s safe and secure,” she said. “The numbers were a little scary for what our kids were breathing.”

An empty classroom at New Carlisle High School. Nearly half of the students had to temporarily move to another building last winter due to unsafe conditions. (Isabelle Larose/Radio Canada)

It’s a worry she won’t have soon. Construction is expected to begin next fall and should be complete by August 2024.

“The kids are very excited, the staff are excited, the community is excited,” said Wood, who added that the board is very excited to finally be able to provide a bright, modern learning environment for students.


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