The Kootenay Lake school district is a step closer to making a decision on next year’s Grade 6 French immersion program at Trafalgar Middle School, but several parents who met with SD8 say they’re not confident it will be the one they want.
About 90 students are registered for the program, which is traditionally capped once enough students to fill two classes are enrolled.
Several parents have already made the trek to the school board and the district’s budget meetings to push for a third class of French immersion, but the suggestion didn’t receive a warm response from SD8 staff at the time, or at a Tuesday night meeting between about 60 parents and district representatives.
Superintendent Jeff Jones, director of student learning Andy Leathwood and Trafalgar principal Geoff Burns told the crowd expanding the French immersion program is costly, and creates scheduling and staffing difficulties for the school.
Because many students who start the program don’t carry it through to graduation, Burns said the district would likely have to add an extra English class in Grade 8 for the few extra students leaving the program. Leathwood estimates that extra class could cost SD8 another $100,000 – about the same amount of money it spends on computers and classroom technology for the entire district.
But parent Bruce Hardy said the district should add the third class and work with parents to prevent the attrition, rather than assume it’s a foregone conclusion.
“We have two years to look at how to keep these kids in the program,” he added.
While solutions to the immersion issue were intended to be the main topic of discussion for the night, staff also had to defend a registration process many complained was unclear and at times misleading.
Andrew Jones told the Star he found out registration had opened only when another parent called him.
“For some reason the information didn’t go home with our son,” he says. “We had a parent phone at 2 p.m. and we had to rush to get this application in.”
Others echoed his story, and one woman said she was told by staff at the board office students would be drawn by lottery if the program ran over