"This year we're celebrating our 20th anniversary," says Catherine Drapeau, principal of l'école Les Aiglons in Squamish. "We started with one classroom with five different grades. Today we have 116 students in six grades from Kindergarten to Grade 7."
L'école Les Aiglons is part of the Conseil scolaire francophone (CSF), or Francophone School District 93. Since 1995, the CSF has been offering an education in French to francophone children across the province as part of the B.C. public education system.
"We started when a former secretary at the school took the phone book and called everyone with a French sounding last name to see if they were interested in starting a francophone elementary school," laughs Mme. Drapeau. “We’ve come a long way.”
Instilling a love of the French language and culture in her students is important to Mme. Drapeau.
"The more time the children spend speaking French in a francophone environment while living in an anglophone community, the more they will find their identity in it,” she says. “We involve the parents, grandparents, and whoever else wants to be involved so the kids can feel a sense of pride belonging to the school and the francophone culture."
There is no francophone high school in Squamish, so after completing Grade 7 students at Les Aiglons usually transfer to the French immersion program in SD 48.
"We have former students who come back to visit us," Mme. Drapeau says, "and they see the importance of keeping their language alive. Often they will take courses through the CSF Virtual School, such as French or Aboriginal studies, along with their regular high school courses."
For more information about l'école Les Aiglons or the CSF, please check the school's website at http://aiglons.csf.bc.ca, call 604.898.3715 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.CSF can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.