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Support for early French immersion growing in Chilliwack

Twenty letters in support of implementing early French immersion in Chilliwack were presented at Tuesday night's school board meeting.

As well, three parents spoke in favour of implementing EFI, and one grandparent.

"The desire [for EFI] has been here for years; now we have momentum," said Jessica Becker, parent of a three-year-old.

"We are requesting the school district begin exploring this option."

The EFI supporters spoke during the public participation portion of the meeting, and were allotted five minutes each to speak.

Parent Travis Forstbauer informed trustees that federal funding is available for expanding French immersion programs. He also suggested the school district was losing students because it did not have early French immersion.

"You are already losing children that could be in this school district to Abbotsford, and obviously that's money that you are also losing,"  said Forstbauer.

If Chilliwack did have early French immersion, Forstbauer believes it would attract students from Agassiz and Hope that would otherwise go to Abbotsford for EFI.

"I think early French immersion would bring more students into our school district and therefore more money," said Forstbauer.

Gerry Kingston said the lack of early French immersion has been swaying families from moving to Chilliwack for decades. When his family was looking for a community to relocate to in the 90s, they chose Abbotsford over Chilliwack, because it had an early French immersion program.

"Early French immersion was very good for my two children, and hopefully it will be for my grandchild too," said Kingston. "I really beseech you to consider this request and move forward with it."

Jessica Becker, who went through EFI as a child, and now uses her bilingualism every day in her career as a flight attendant, said she would send her daughter to Abbotsford if Chilliwack does not move forward with EFI.

"I would love for my daughter to have the same opportunities as I had," said Becker.

The EFI supporters suggested the district undertake a city wide survey to determine interest.

Parent Ron Plowright told trustees he didn't want to work against them, but with them.

"We are willing to do some of the work ... help in whatever way we can," said Plowright. "I really think this is something we need to partner on. I think between all of us, we can collaborate to get this done."

See related story: Parents push for early French immersion.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

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