WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Beaumont's new French immersion school, Académie Saint-André, is temporarily housed in six leased buildings.
BEAUMONT – Not only is Brother André on the verge of being elevated to sainthood, Montreal's humble man of faith will also be honoured as the patron of Beaumont's only Catholic school.
Planning for the new school started about four years ago. More recently, the Catholic community, parents and division staff submitted 45 potential names, such as St. Vital, Ascension and de La Salle.
A three-person naming committee short-listed the names and then recommended Académie Saint-André, a choice that was ratified by St. Thomas Aquinas Roman (STAR) Catholic Division Board.
The school strives to nurture an excellent education in a faith-filled environment. It wanted a name that would give an identity and inspiration to students, parents, staff and community members. It also wanted a name that encouraged students to emulate the ideals and virtues of an individual.
Brother André was an apt choice.
"The board has certain criteria that they use. It must be a Catholic name, and reflect Catholic values. The town has some guidelines in recognizing the French heritage," said Jamie McNamara, superintendent of the school division.
"In all of the submissions that came in, Saint-André absolutely met all of the criteria. It's even more significant because he's going to be canonized in a couple of weeks."
Brother André, a man of simplicity who possessed a great heart for others and a strong devotion to St. Joseph, will be the first Canadian-born man canonized.
Most of his life was spent in Montreal where he founded the world-famous St. Joseph's Oratory. His canonization is set for Oct. 17 in Rome.
"Some of the things that Brother André stood for - helping the poor, healing the sick - were really strong values that we could build our school around," said principal Jim McMullen.
"The nature of word 'academy' too, there's an emphasis on the academic component that we're really trying to nurture and support here at the school."
Académie Saint-André celebrates its official opening Oct. 12.
"Académie Saint- André is our first French immersion school, but in terms of marriaging and providing programs to the school, it hasn't been a challenge for us. We've been able to hire French immersion teachers and provide the resources that those students need," said McNamara.
Beaumont's demographics, full of young Catholic families, meant that a Catholic school was needed.
McMullen has noticed that the parents dropping off their children in the morning are often pushing a baby stroller or have a couple of kids in arm - which bodes well for the school's future.
"First of all, there was a need for additional schools. The public schools are coping well, but they are certainly very full.
"The second thing, four years ago the people of Beaumont expressed an interest in establishing the town as part of the Catholic school jurisdiction. That strong desire has led to the establishment of the Académie Saint-André," said McMullen.
WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Brooke Lamash chooses just the right color crayon for her picture.
The school has a staff of six who educate 49 students in kindergarten to Grade 2, and another 60 pre-school children. McMullen anticipates enrollment will grow in the 2011-12 school year.
"We will definitely have Grade 3 next year. We are anticipating such growth in this town, and with a year of establishing ourselves in the community, I really expect that we will have a great increase in our enrollment next year," said McMullen.
The school logo of a cross atop a hill has significance in two ways - the hill of Mont Royal in Montreal where Brother André built St. Joseph's Oratory and the hill upon which the beautiful St. Vital Church stands in Beaumont. A symbol of book pages signifies the school's status as an academy of learning.
"We hope that our logo will be an easily recognizable, honoured and cherished symbol of Académie Saint-André for years to come.
"As we start building our own history, it will be exciting to see the logo throughout the community of Beaumont," said McMullen.
The school is situated in six separate buildings, four of which are currently in use at 5701 Magasin Ave. The buildings were originally intended for commercial use, but instead the developer leased the buildings to the school.
A nice feature is the open courtyard for the students to play in, and a nearby field for the children to access.
"It's not a strip mall-looking type of building. In Beaumont, there are pretty strict architectural guidelines to maintain the French-Canadian culture," said McMullen.
build a school
The school will remain at its present location for at least three years, although school administrators are hopeful that they will get provincial funding to build a school in Beaumont's Montelet subdivision.
"Right now, it's not great because we're still in a bit of a construction zone. The kids will be in class - it's kind of funny - and the concrete truck rolls up and starts pouring. The kids love it.
"But we're really looking forward to the end of construction so we can settle in," said McMullen.
However the bricks and mortar are deemed less important than the people involved with the school.
"It's not so much the school itself, the building. Those students show up on the bus and they're smiling.
"They really want to be here," said McMullen.