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Chilliwack parents question location of early French immersion program

An early French immersion meeting held this week has left some Chilliwack parents questioning whether EFI will work for their families.

Approximately 50 people attended the information meeting at Cheam elementary on Wednesday evening. Some who walked away still concerned with the location of the program at Cheam elementary.

Several parents expressed concern on the Parents for Early French Immersion in Chilliwack Facebook group following the meeting.

One parent, who lives in Greendale, pointed to the school’s 2:10 p.m. dismissal time, and the lack of busing for students attending programs of choice, like EFI, being a deterrent.

“This is a big concern when the bulk of the initial EFI interest was from families in the south side,” she wrote.

“It will definitely be an issue for us,” wrote another parent who lives in Cultus Lake. “We are super far.”

The location, however, is non-negotiable. South side schools don’t have the space.

“We seriously looked at where we might be able to house that program, and over the short term as well as over the next number of years,” said superintendent Evelyn Novak. “And I think, as everyone is well aware, those schools [on the south side] are over capacity as it is.”

The school district has requested government funding for new schools in the Eastern Hillsides, one that’s been targeted as a dual track school.

“But we can’t anticipate when that might happen; that’s so dependent on ministry funding,” said Novak.

Some parents were also concerned that EFI students would continue their studies at Chilliwack middle school. A brochure handed out to parents at the meeting stated:

“On the north side, students enrolled in both early and late French immersion will continue at Chilliwack Middle School.”

But Novak told The Progress that was not yet set in stone.

“We’re still working on that,” she said. “It depends on what we do with late French immersion over the next number of years and what grade they become one program.”

The job now, said Novak, is to focus on the year ahead.

“Because [the program] is very new and we don’t know what the future holds, we don’t want to look beyond this year,” she said. “Let’s just make this first year as successful as we can and get it off the ground.”

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