New hope for Chilliwack early French immersion program

School board trustee Silvia Dyck, who previously voted against EFI, has a new plan.

There’s fresh hope for an early French immersion program in Chilliwack. Board of Education trustee Silvia Dyck believes that the district should fund EFI through its reserve balance.

On May 12, the board of education voted to reject an EFI program starting in 2014 in a tight 3–2 vote, on the grounds that the district couldn’t afford the program right now.

Dyck will bring forward a motion at next month’s board meeting proposing that the board amend its budget guiding principles, in order to allow the $600,000 reserve to be used for the establishment of an EFI program.

Dyck voted against EFI two weeks ago. Her change of heart may be the final push that brings early French immersion to Chilliwack. If all other trustees vote on the new motion on June 11 as they had on the previous one, Dyck’s motion would pass.

A reserve is meant to support the educational needs of a community, stated Dyck in her draft report, to be presented to the board at Tuesday’s public meeting.

“It is contradictory to hold a reserve while suggesting that we do not have the resources to start a new program that is both parent supported and part of our national identity as a bilingual country…We need to walk the talk.”

In its first year, EFI would cost $578,035, according to an analysis by superintendent Evelyn Novak. This is just below the annual reserve amount of $600,000.

After its first year, the costs for EFI climb, peaking at $1,052,535 by year five as more school grades join the program.

The district also has a small, uncommitted surplus to support financial pressures in the coming year, according to Dyck.

Since the board’s rejection of an EFI program earlier this month, local parents supporting early French immersion have continued seeking solutions to introduce their children to French at the Kindergarten and Grade 1 levels. Ideas circulating on the Facebook group, Parents for Early French Immersion in Chilliwack, include relocating students to the Abbotsford school district, which offers EFI, and starting an independent French school in Chilliwack.

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