June 15, 2016 - 8:00 PM
CENTRAL OKANAGAN - Lots of people have lots of ideas about what the Central Okanagan School District should do about French immersion but the chair of the school board says one thing is clear — some hard decisions need to be made, and soon.
“Absolutely, this is an issue that has not been dealt with and it’s getting worse every year,” board chair Moyra Baxter says. “Time is running out because ultimately this is a decision that will affect every single school in the district."
School trustees have just received results of the French immersion task force, which has developed four 'bundled options' for how the district could realign schools to meet demand for French immersion and relieve overcrowding at Ecole KLO Middle School.
The primary suggestion in three of the options suggest Dr. Knox Middle School be turned into a dual track immersion school. The fourth option suggests Springvalley Middle School be considered for dual track French immersion.
The four options are costed out at between $2.8 and $3.8 million but Baxter admits they are non-binding and trustees could still come up with something completely different, taking into account the budget pressure the district has been facing the last few years.
“The board has to think about the cost, is it sustainable, can we afford to do it and even if this is where we should be putting our money,” Baxter says.
“If we are going to put all this extra money in, we’re going to have to cut something,” she says. "Is French immersion what we need, should it be another language like Mandarin (Chinese) or should we be focusing more on entrepreneurship? These are all questions that need to be answered.”
Baxter says the French immersion task force began its work in the wake of a proposal last year to begin offering the popular program in Glenrosa Middle School in West Kelowna.
“Parent were outraged, they said we didn’t give them enough information, you didn’t give us enough time, wait until our kids are through before you do anything,” Baxter recalls. “We backed off and then decided we can’t just look at the Westside. We have to look at the whole district.”
To that end, Baxter says the district will likely open it up to much broader public consultation this fall before making a final decision.
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