Strong support for early French immersion

Shaz-Marie McLean would love for her 16-month-old son to be able to start French immersion when he starts kindergarten.

Shaz-Marie McLean would love for her 16-month-old son to be able to start French immersion when he starts kindergarten.

She may get her wish.

The Chilliwack school district held a consultation meeting last week asking prospective French immersion parents if they’d be interested in an early French immersion program starting in kindergarten.

Currently there are 457 students attending late French immersion in the school district. That number fluctuates year to year, said superintendent Michael Audet.

The meeting had approximately 60 people in attendance, including parents, staff and other interested parties. Of the parents in attendance, there was strong interest in an early French immersion program.

“I would certainly be thrilled to have my son enter an early French immersion program,” said McLean, who herself was in French immersion all through school in the Williams Lake school district.

“Right now, they’re just exploring the idea and figuring out how it could be done. What is important is to build interest in the program so that it is both feasible and beneficial for the district.”

Parents were also asked how they would feel if the Grade 6 program at Sardis elementary was moved to Vedder middle school.

The main reason is capacity.

Chilliwack school district is one of the only districts in B.C. that continues to grow, and mostly on the south side. Many of the elementary schools in Sardis are already near capacity; some are over capacity.

“This was one thought … if we were to move the Gr. 6 kids to VMS would that alleviate a space problem at Sardis elementary?” Audet told The Progress.

He added the benefits of doing so would include an expanded program that would have more teachers, more course opportunities, and more opportunities for students to speak French with a wider French-speaking population.

“With a larger cohort of kids in the same school speaking French, there would be more opportunities to speak French with other kids,” Audet said. “We may also be able to do something with staffing, because we would have a larger cohort of French-speaking teachers. So instead of two teachers in school speaking French, we could have six, and there could be more program and instructional offerings that we don’t currently have in place.

“It would be a better program.”

There were, however, some concerns expressed at the meeting with mixing Grade 6 students with Grade 9 and 10 students.

“There was concern with the possibility of early exposure to peer pressure,” said McLean. “Ten-year-olds being with 15-year-olds, especially 10-year-old girls with 15-year-old boys was a question in the air for sure.”

A survey regarding the French immersion program is available on the school district website at http://app.fluidsurveys.com/surveys/ksigaty/french-immersion-survey/

kbartel@theprogress.com

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