by John Symon – mtltimes.ca
A new elementary school, Sainte-Anne Academy (SAA), officially opened October 23 in Dorval. This bilingual, co-ed, private school is housed in the magnificent former golf club house situated on Bouchard Blvd that until recently served as the Queen of Angels (QoA) private girls’ school. And while many dignitaries, including local mayors, were present for the ceremony, the school chose to let two kindergarten students cut the ribbon. Unofficially, the school has already been open for two months.
“It was a natural vision to open an elementary school,” said College Ste-Anne (CSA) board president Nathalie Gagnon. The CSA, which traces its origin back to 1861, already operates a high school and college (CEGEP) in nearby Lachine.
“No, I do not have plans to now open a Sainte-Anne University,” joked CSA executive director Ugo Cavenaghi. He noted that CSA is the only mixed school in Quebec with three levels (elementary, high school, college). Cavenaghi also stressed the importance of reinventing school so that students can face the challenges of the future. He also thanked Gagnon and his staff for working out “thousands of necessary details before opening the school.”
“I would like to see a Ste-Anne University,” quipped Lachine mayor Claude Dauphin, going on to describe Cavenaghi as “visionary.” Dauphin also pointed out that the three levels of CSA collectively have some 300 workers, making the school one of the bigger employers in the area.
Dorval mayor Edgar Rouleau said he was very glad that CSA came to his city. “After QoA closed, we didn’t want to have more condos here. It’s better to hear kids playing outdoors!” Dorval did, however, help CSA subdivide part of its property where there will soon be mixed housing. That property may soon see some 200 doors, Rouleau told The Times.
“There was no model for this school elsewhere in Canada,” said SAA principal Véronique Lemieux-Boyer. “We had to go to the USA and to Finland for inspiration.” She described the main selling points of the school as its bilingual nature, expansive (500,000 sq ft) playground, and the fact that 24 percent of teachers are men. “Some schools only have two men on staff; the gym teacher and the janitor,” she noted.
This reporter went on a guided tour of the new school with Virginia Lafleur, a retired teacher from QoA who recalled starting there in 1971. Extensive renovations have created much more light in the school. Despite the renovations, Lafleur was pleased to see that the “Hall of Honour” retained its name. “This used to be used to be the women’s hallway at the golf course circa 1922. After QoA took over the building in 1959, we hung photos of our graduates here.”
The school currently has 482 students from kindergarten through grade six; boys comprise 55 percent of the student population. These students were selected from 842 applicants, mostly coming from the West Island. SAA could have admitted 570 students in 2015-16, but administrators decided not to run at full capacity in first year. There are also 33 teachers at SAA; eight of them are men.