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Parents push for early French immersion

The lack of early French immersion in Chilliwack is tantamount to a “missing link,” said parent Ron Plowright.

He’s one of several Chilliwack parents trying to raise awareness about the benefits of starting French immersion early at the kindergarten level.

“Trustees have said if the numbers are there, they’ll support it,” said parent Travis Forstbauer. “We want to work with the Chilliwack school district to find out if the numbers are there.”

Both Forstbauer and Plowright have children aged three and younger, and believe strongly in the benefits of acquiring a second language at a young age.

They’re so serious about lobbying for it at the local level, that some of the parents have set up a Parents for Early Immersion in Chilliwack Facebook page, which had 85 members at press time Monday, and now has more than 90.

“To learn a second language, especially like French, is invaluable for children,” said Forstbauer. “Having the opportunity to start French immersion when they’re first going to school is less time consuming for them.”

For him, starting in Grade 6, was “too late.”

Plowright said EFI holds “huge benefits” for the community and society as a whole.

“You get wired for language acquisition early in life,” he said. “I want my child to have the option to go to early French immersion.”

From what he can tell, Chilliwack is one of the largest communities which does not offer EFI.

The nearest school district that does offer EFI is Abbotsford.

The group of parents interested in EFI have started networking with the national organization, Canadian Parents For French.

“They’ve been a big help already,” said Plowright.

“Ultimately I think it will take Chilliwack parents standing up to say they want this to make it happen.”

The parents want to partner with the school district to “survey” parents to quantify support for the idea, and end the speculation about it.

“The school district has the clout and the tools, so we believe between them and us we can get this figured out,” Plowright said.

In September, the school district did survey prospective French immersion parents at a public consultation meeting and online to see how many would be interested in EFI.

Superintendent Michael Audet did not respond to a call made by the Progress prior to press deadline to clarify where the district is at with EFI.

The ad hoc group of parents hopes to gather a delegation of parents to attend a future school district meeting to make a presentation on the topic.

To find out more contact the group at earlyimmersion@gmail.com.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/chwkjourno

~ with files from Katie Bartel

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