Story by Greg Higgins, with files from James Wood

PARRY SOUND, ON – A section of Canadore College will not be turned into a French elementary school.

Parry Sound Town Council rejected a proposal to rezone the post-secondary facility in a unanimous decision at Tuesday’s meeting.

There were safety concerns about putting elementary students in harm’s way in a college. A notion Parry Sound mayor Jamie McGarvey echoed.

“To sum it up for me, it was more of a moral issue,” McGarvey said. “I just didn’t agree with children at a very young age being in an adult education environment. There were a lot of things going on that just didn’t sit well with me. ”

Concerned residents and bordering municipalities submitted dozens of letters asking councillors to vote against the approval. Some added it wouldn’t be right that washrooms would be shared between the college and the public school.

The proposal asked for unused classrooms at the college to be turned into a temporary French elementary school that would house roughly 30 students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8.

McGarvey added another issue he had was with Canadore choosing to rent out space to a public school over providing more adult education.

“We want those skilled trades in the community,” McGarvey said. “We want the education because we have business people looking for people to create a good product to put out. Sometimes out into the world.”

There were some people and organizations that supported the idea though.

Dr. Denis Labelle is the chair of the Conseil scolaire public Nord-Est de L’Ontario, which is the French school board in the area. He said members and parents who would be sending their children to the school wanted to see it approved.

Labelle argued parents have the right to send their children to French-language schools under the Charter of Canadian Rights and Freedoms. He said Canadore College was the best fit and the approval should go through.

There is currently no French-language public school in Parry Sound, but that is something McGarvey is more than willing to change.

“We would work with [Conseil scolaire public Nord-Est de L’Ontario] anytime,” McGarvey said. “There is no issue there whatsoever. There needs to be a harder look in the community to put something together so parents can have their kids get a French education.”

More than 10 other locations were suggested to the school board by the town, but none of them were considered suitable.

The board’s director of education, Simon Fecteau, told the newsroom that the school board is still planning on opening in September.

They’re still looking for options that could be available in the area, and are hopeful about still opening at Canadore.

“We’re certainly hoping that they (Canadore) will appeal,” said Fecteau.

“I don’t want to speak for Canadore, but I certainly hope they will appeal, and we’re certainly looking at what our options are in the process, waiting for that appeal. No guarantees, as far as where we’re going to be, but we definitely have every intention of having a school in Parry Sound come September.”