|Survey available to gauge interest for French Immersion|
By Yasmin Aboelsaud
December 15, 2011
The Canadian Parents for French (CPF) Tofino-Ucluelet Chapter has asked School District 70 (SD70) to survey parents regarding their interest in an elementary French immersion program on the West Coast.
CPF board member Denise Aujla said the group has met with SD70 superintendent Cam Pinkerton to express their interest for the program.
"When you want to start a French immersion program, it's never offered directly by the school board. It's parents that come up and form a voice," said Aujla.
She said Pinkerton has been supportive of the CPF's efforts.
"We certainly encourage them to survey the residents to see what the interest is like for French immersion. We'd have to make sure it's sustainable," said Pinkerton.
A letter attached to the survey summarizes the proposed elementary French immersion program.
It states that "early immersion means that your child could enter the program in Kindergarten or grade 1. In Year 1 of the program (2012), the only French Immersion grades would be Kindergarten and grade 1. In subsequent years, children in the program would progress through the regular grades but the entry grades would be K [Kindergarten]."
Acceptance will be on a first-come, first-served basis.
For the sustainability of the program, it would only be offered at one of the West Coast elementary schools, either Wickaninnish Community School or the Ucluelet Elementary School.
Aujla said she understands why it would be difficult to implement such a program.
"It changes a lot of things. If you're bringing a new program to your school system, it will be a lot of work changing what has already been established."
Aujla said French immersion in small communities is common in British Columbia, with communities including the Village of Hazelton and Whistler.
She said French is increasingly being used in Tofino because of the tourism industry.
"Tofino is becoming such a big community in the world. People are coming from all over the place - it's an international town."
SD70 supports French immersion in the region.
"We think French is very important. We support it at SD70 at Alberni Elementary School," said Pinkerton.
Alberni Elementary offers two 24-student Kindergarten French immersion classes each year.
Pinkerton said about ten students end up in grade 12 French Immersion.
"We did start a late French immersion program in grade 6 three years ago, and were one of the only districts on Vancouver Island to do that despite our smaller size. I think French, or any second language, is an important aspect for student learning."
Aujla and the CPF hope to gain enough survey results showing interest in starting a program in 2012.
The immersion program would be open to all Kindergarten and grade 1 students in the community, and parents are not required to speak French.
The group will present the survey results to the board of trustees and SD70 in January.
"We need to have 18 children able to attend, but we don't know what to expect," said Aujla.
The surveys are available at the schools, and need to be returned to the Wickaninnish Community School or the Ucluelet Elementary School by December 19.
It is anticipated Pinkerton will make his recommendations as to the feasibility and sustainability of an elementary French program at a school board meeting in February.
Survey results will be available on the SD70 website at that time.
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