The Kootenay Lake school district faced the wrath of dozens of parents this year who were told there was no room for their children in Trafalgar’s Grade 6 French immersion program.
Ninety-four students registered, but enrolment is capped at 60, enough for two classes. For parents, it was a no-brainer: add a third class. For district staff, it wasn’t so simple.
The program has a high attrition rate, losing 11 to 15 students each year, and expansion would be expensive and create scheduling and staffing problems, they said. The school would likely be forced to add extra teachers to deal with students returning to English programming.
But parents responded that the district should add the third class anyway and work with them to prevent drop outs, rather than accept them as a foregone conclusion.
Staff also had to defend a registration process many parents complained was unfair and misleading. Some said they were informed their children had secured a spot in the program, while others were told that information wasn’t being given out. Many also said they were advised there was no hurry to register, only to learn the program was already oversubscribed.
Meetings were held to look for solutions, but ultimately parents didn’t get what they wanted.
Despite intense pressure and empassioned pleas to add the third class, trustees decided to keep the program capped at 60, and admit those who signed up first.
“Ninety four families that want in were willing to work with you,” parent Trish Dehnel told the board. “We’ve been waiting for this for all these years… I am really disappointed.”
The Trafalgar parent advisory council responded by calling for an independent consultant to review the district’s decision-making process.
Trustees rejected the idea as too costly, but hoped a series of new community engagement committees would go some way to addressing their concerns.
Superintendent Jeff Jones suggested had the committees existed before, the debate over French immersion might not have become so heated.