The Sea to Sky School District is the only one in the province offering late French immersion but not early immersion, says a parents’ group pushing to change that.
Formed in May, residents set up a Squamish branch of the Canadian Parents for French (CPF) organization, a national lobby group dedicated to the promotion of French second-language learning opportunities. Since then the group collected signatures from parents of 160 children under the age of 10 who want to see their kids in French immersion, said Kaija Belfry Munroe.
“We have huge amount of demand, it’s just a matter of logistics,” she said.
Chilliwack and Okanagan Skaha school boards recently voted to implement the early immersion program, making Sea to Sky the last district to provide late French immersion without the latter, Munroe said. Currently, non-French-speaking students can enrol in French language programming in Grade 5.
The petition demonstrates the interest, Andrew Blair, CPF director, said of the website and petition.
“Starting in 2014, we have enough children registered to fill kindergarten classrooms for the following five years,” he said.
In January, Sea to Sky district officials said they were examining whether local facilities could accommodate an expanded immersion program. At a Board of Trustees meeting on Jan. 16, superintendendent Lisa McCullough said she wanted to have a clearer picture of where any expanded programs might be housed and how an expansion might affect other programs.
Squamish Elementary School, where Squamish’s Grade 5, 6 and 7 French immersion students are now, is at its capacity, McCullough noted. If the program continues to expand, an option noted was to move Grade 7 French immersion to Don Ross Secondary School.
School district officials started communicating with the CPF branch in April and met with the group in June, said assistant superintendent Jody Langlois. Public consultation is currently underway and a report is anticipated to be on the board’s table in November, she noted.
“We are looking for a decision to be made in December,” Langlois said.
Armed with the branch’s petition, CPF members have a meeting with the Sea to Sky School District in October. The group plans to hold a public meeting on Monday (Sept. 16) from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Moussi Montessori, 38647 Buckley Ave. For more information, visit www.seatoskyfrench.com.