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A very special day at the International School

-Robert Arnoux

Flags of the world plus one. On the right, the flag of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Region with the stripes of Provence, the dolphin of the Dauphiné province and the eagle of the County of Nice. (Click to view larger version...)
Flags of the world plus one. On the right, the flag of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Region with the stripes of Provence, the dolphin of the Dauphiné province and the eagle of the County of Nice.
They all used different words but expressed the same feeling. Whether president of the region or head of the département, mayor or préfet, school principal or recteur, all insisted on how "happy" and how "proud" they were on this very special day.

The date was Monday, 24 January and the occasion was the inauguration of the International School in Manosque, now officially the "International School of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur".

For local politicians and representatives of the French administration, the cutting of the symbolic ribbon marked the accomplishment of a unique endeavour: the creation, within the rather rigid French public education system, of an international school capable of catering to students aged 3 to 18 and hailing from 27 nations, by providing them with classes in French as well as nine other languages."We went as far as the French Constitution would allow," said Recteur Jean-Paul de Gaudemar, the head of the public education service in the Aix-Marseille region. "We had to face tremendous challenges, both intellectually and technically. And I must say ITER was a demanding partner..."

Michel Vauzelle surrounded by a sea of flags. In the second row from left to right: préfet Pierre N'Gahane, Département Council President Jean-Louis Bianco, ITER DG Osamu Motojima, Recteur Jean-Paul de Gaudemar, Christophe Castaner, Mayor of Forcalquier and Vice-President of the Regional Council and other personalities. (Click to view larger version...)
Michel Vauzelle surrounded by a sea of flags. In the second row from left to right: préfet Pierre N'Gahane, Département Council President Jean-Louis Bianco, ITER DG Osamu Motojima, Recteur Jean-Paul de Gaudemar, Christophe Castaner, Mayor of Forcalquier and Vice-President of the Regional Council and other personalities.
President of the PACA Region, Michel Vauzelle summed up the general feeling when he said: "This is a moment of pure happiness. It is the reward for all our work as politicians and administrators. This place has no equivalent in the world and at the same time it is a school like any other... an integral part of the French educational system. It was designed for "ITER children" but it is, and will always be, open to all."

ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima described the event as "an important milestone in the history of ITER". He commended the school's educational team for providing the ITER children "with education and values that will enable them to embrace the endless human and professional opportunities of our multicultural world." The International School, he said, is "an example to be followed by all future international collaborations."

Cutting the symbolic ribbon. Bernard Jeanmet-Peralta, the Mayor of Manosque and Jean-Paul Clément, Director of the Intn'l School, stand between DG Motojima and Region President Vauzelle. The inauguration was attended by the Consul-Generals of Japan and of the United States (in the background). (Click to view larger version...)
Cutting the symbolic ribbon. Bernard Jeanmet-Peralta, the Mayor of Manosque and Jean-Paul Clément, Director of the Intn'l School, stand between DG Motojima and Region President Vauzelle. The inauguration was attended by the Consul-Generals of Japan and of the United States (in the background).
Before gathering for the speeches in the auditorium, the large crowd of officials, parents and teachers had taken an extensive tour of the premises. All were equally impressed by the daring concrete-and-wood architecture, the scope of activities offered to the students, their command of languages, and by what President Bianco of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence département called "...the beautiful and amazing gathering of students coming from nearly 30 nations."

Establishing an international school close to Cadarache was part of the French commitment to ITER as defined in the Site Support Annex of the ITER Agreement of 2006. Pending the construction of the facility that was inaugurated on Monday, the International School opened in September 2007, taking up temporary accommodations in a nearby lycée. 130 children and students, aged 3 to 18, were enrolled for the first school year. They are now 400, half of them "ITER children".

The International School is operated under the authority of the French Ministry of Education. Construction of the 26,000 m² building was financed by the PACA Region (EUR 55 M).

The International School of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur will cater to "ITER children" - generations of them - for the whole duration of the project. Once ITER has come to the end of its experimental program, the concrete-and-wood building that so perfectly blends into its surroundings will live on as one of the project's durable legacies.

Click here to see more pictures.



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