By David F. Rooney
The SD 19 Board of Trustees made it public: There will be no early French Immersion in Revelstoke.
“CPF parents have to ask themselves if it’s early French Immersion or nothing,” Board Chairman Alan Chell said.
He said the board is open to discussing different ways to enhance French language instruction but the board would not yield on early immersion. This has been its position since the first tentative discussions about French Immersion began in 2006-2007.
“It’s our responsibility to take care of everyone in the district — not just a small group,” Chell said.
And therein lies part of the problem. When it comes to talking about French Immersion in Revelstoke you had better get used to talking about numbers — lots of numbers. Here’s a sample:
The CPF says all of their statistics can be verified, but the School District says that may be so but they don’t represent an official commitment on the part of parents to place their kids in an FI program.
What’s more with a declining enrolment trend in Revelstoke — there are only 954 students attending the city’s three elementary schools and single high school this year down from 1,014 in 2012 and, going back a few years, 1,442 in 2001 — the district can’t afford a French Immersion program. The rest of the school population would be asked to bear the non-monetary costs of FI. Class sizes would have to be juggled, French text and school library books (which are expensive) would have to be purchased, the district would need fluently bilingual teachers and teaching assistants… the list goes on.
Okay… why not a late FI program?
Kirsty Peterson, who is the Chapter Support and Outreach Officer for the BC and Yukon Branch of Canadian Parents for French, said late immersion is generally regarded as less effective than early immersion. She also said enrolment in FI programs would, judging by what’s happening in other districts that offer FI, likely remain stable even as overall enrolment continues to decline.
Peterson clarified her remarks on Wednesday with this comment: “My statement with regards to LFI was not that it is less effective than Early Immersion, as it is neither my opinion, nor the position of CPF less effective, rather that Early Immersion students tend to achieve a higher level of oral competency than their LFI counterparts but in other areas achieve the same results as EFI students. Both programs have excellent results and produce highly bilingual students.”
At one point, some parents asked if the district would consider an early immersion pilot project.
“What’s so wrong about a pilot project?” she asked.
“The Coles Notes version is that we are protecting quality education for everyone in our district,” said SD19 Superintendent Mike Hooker. “We’re concerned about the effect a French Immersion project would have on our ability to deliver a quality education in English. If you’re interested in enhanced French language instruction then that’s something we can talk about.”
If you’d like to learn more about this issue please read the following documents:
- Mike Hooker’s report to the SD19 trustees regarding French Immersion; and
- The CPF’s presentation at the April 4 public meeting.