By David F. Rooney
Parents eager to enrole their young children in a French Immersion (FI) program turned out in force at Wednesday afternoon’s School District 19 Board meeting but left feeling a little disheartened by what has turned into a game of numbers.
About 18 parents with, perhaps 10 very young children, watched and listened as Superintendent Mike Hooker said he thinks only 10 families are, at this point, fully committed to participation in a French Immersion program this fall.
The informal group of parents pushing for French Immersion say their numbers show 19 fully committed for FI in 2013 with four maybes, while 16 families, and 6 maybes, want immersion for children entering Grade 1 this autumn.
“We’ll be working hard to get Mike’s list consistent with ours,” said Stephanie Melnyk, one of the parents’ spearheading the parents seeking early immersion.
She and other dozens of other people have been networking through Facebook for the last number of days. They also brought a letter (click here to read that document) for Hooker that outlined their thoughts regarding staffing, class room size and other potential issues.
“Delaying the start of FI until 2014 will not result in any more time for implementation,” the parents said in the letter. “By the time surveys are sent out, results are compiled, a few families are contacted directly and the Trustees have a look at the results, we’re into February again. A further complication is the number of interested parents whose children are currently in kindergarten. Many of these parents are fully prepared to hold their children back a year to be included in the program. This would only complicate the logistics of class size for both the initial FI year and the preceeding English year, which would lose a significant number of students.”
“The challenge for us is having a sustainable program,” Hooker said at the meeting. A past attempt to create a French Immersion program failed because the district did not believe there were enough families seeking it.
He said he should have a better handle on the numbers once Revelstokians have completed registering their children for Kindergarten. However, he also cautioned that there is no particular number that means French Immersion is a go or a bust.
Melnyk also noted that if French Immersion proves to be a popular and real possibility then SD19 may have to have a lottery to select kids for an immersion program.
“The Catch-22 is that we can’t have more than 20 children in a class,” she said. “So we’ll probably have to go a lottery.”
But before that happens the district has to be convinced there are enough families to warrant it. That may not be as easy as it sounds and may require some direct action by parents.
“Parents may need to start protesting,” Melnyk said