Late French Immersion coming to Central Okanagan | Kelowna News | iNFOnews

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Late French Immersion coming to Central Okanagan

February 23, 2017 - 11:10 AM

KELOWNA - Soon parents will be able to enroll their children in French Immersion later than grade one, following a decision by the Central Okanagan school board last night.

School district staff recommended the district offer later enrollment for French immersion. At last night's, Feb. 22, board meeting trustees voted in favour of the recommendation. Currently, a child is only able to enroll in either kindergarten or grade one.

“We’re not making any decisions about where and when, but we are saying we think this is a good idea to offer,” board chair Moyra Baxter says. “Nothing will happen for this coming September.”

Ever since French Immersion was first implemented, more than two decades ago, the board has been committed to early immersion. Now, the board is looking at whether they will offer middle and/or late immersion.

Middle immersion begins in grade four, while late immersion starts in grade six.

“Over the years there has been lots of research done to show late immersion to be affective for a student to become fluent in French,” Baxter says.

For families just moving to the district, middle or late immersion would give them the opportunity to enroll their child if they did not have the option before.

If late immersion is introduced, parents will have the ability to decide whether their child wishes to continue a more intensive French program, after French is first introduced to all students in grade five.

The School District set up a task force late 2016 in order to determine if Central Okanagan families would support a later introduction to French Immersion.

About 994 online survey’s were completed and returned to the school district. Results show 39 per cent were supportive or very supportive of middle immersion, while 37 per cent were supportive of late immersion.

The School District will continue to consult with parents and find out if people really want the program or would sign up for it. After further consultation is done, staff will come back to the board for a second motion.

Currently there are eight schools within the district offering French immersion. At the moment, K.LO. is the only middle school offering French immersion, and according to assistant superintendent Rhonda Ovelson it is growing past capacity.  

In December 2016, the School District decided Dr. Knox Middle School will offer French Immersion in September 2017. 

The only high school offering the program is École Kelowna Secondary School. However, Ovelson says they are looking at adding a third middle school, and possibly a second high school. 

"We've definitely had conversations about opening a third dual track middle school in order to distribute the population more evenly," Ovelson says. 

At the moment there are more than 2,300 students enrolled in French Immersion in the Central Okanagan. 

"There is a very high demand for French Immersion in Central Kelowna. It's been steadily increasing over the past 10 years," Olevlson says. "There are waitlists." 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Hickman or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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