Petition started to implement Grade 6 French Immersion at new Lake Country middle school | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Petition started to implement Grade 6 French Immersion at new Lake Country middle school

January 24, 2020 - 5:30 PM

While Lake Country parents are concerned about Grade 6 French Immersion in the district with the opening of a new middle school, they still see value in a French education, even if students don’t graduate with a Dual Dogwood.

Stephanie Lawton started a petition to implement French Immersion in H.S. Grenda Junior Middle, which will open in 2021. Her daughter, who is in Grade 3, is in French Immersion at Peter Greer Elementary and her other daughter is starting kindergarten in French Immersion this year.

She will present her petition to the Central Okanagan Public Schools board during its regular meeting, Jan. 29. As of Friday afternoon (Jan. 24), the petition collected 162 signatures.

“The school district has not yet told anyone what they plan to do with Grade 6 French Immersion. Currently, when H.S. Grenda opens, it will be Grades 6 to 8. They plan to move all the Grade 6 (students) there, however, they have yet to say what will happen to Grade 6 French,” Lawton said.

Peter Greer currently serves students from kindergarten to Grade 6. Lake Country does not have a K-12 program for French Immersion, similar to West Kelowna.

“Right now when kids graduate from Grade 6 at Peter Greer, to continue French Immersion they have to go to École Dr. Knox Middle School in Glenmore and then to Kelowna Secondary School to graduate, which is a huge trip and there’s no transit to take them, they have to use public transit,” Lawton said.

For a lot of families, living in Lake Country is more important than moving elsewhere for French Immersion or having their children use public transportation, she said.

It would be nice if students could graduate with both French and English diplomas without having to travel to KSS to finish their diplomas, she said, but acknowledged when she placed her first child in French Immersion, there was a risk of not having them complete the full program.

“I’m advocating for my daughter to be able to graduate with both languages, but even if she’s a fluent French speaker when she graduates, that’s good,” Lawton said.

All of her daughter’s lessons are currently in French, which Lawton said will be beneficial for her education. Lawton said she is unsure if she would have put her second daughter in the program if she knew that she would only get a K-5 French education.

Margo Mercier, executive director with the Kamloops Francophone Association, agrees that some French instruction is better than none.

"The length of time to master the language really depends on the child. Some children can speak quite well after kindergarten. The more a child is immersed in the French language the quicker he or she will master the language. It is always worth it to enrol your child in French Immersion even if they choose to opt out after grade 6. Once your brain has learned the language it will remember,” he said. “It will of course get rusty if you never use the language, but it will be easier and quicker to get it back as that part of your brain is developed."

“I met a young man last weekend that went to French Immersion up to Grade 7 and then to English for the remaining of his school years. Even though he hadn't spoke French in years, he was able to carry on a conversation with me in French… If you want to master a language, you have to put the effort into learning it,” Mercier said.

In 2019 in West Kelowna, a late French Immersion program was implemented at Hudson Road Elementary.

Late French Immersion students there are integrated with French students from George Pringle Elementary at Glenrosa Middle School starting in Grade 6 until Grade 9. If students want to get their Dual Dogwoods, they still have to travel to KSS in Kelowna, the same as Lake Country students.

Currently there is no plan to implement a Grade 6 French Immersion program at the new Lake Country middle school, said Moyra Baxter, Central Okanagan Public Schools board chair, but she noted that the board will wait and see what is presented to them during next week’s meeting.

Some West Kelowna parents wanted their kids to attend a French Immersion program in Kelowna, since it gives them opportunities to meet with new peers.

“We had two different trains of thought,” Baxter said.

French Immersion programs are not fully funded, and extra resources are needed for the programs, Baxter said. She said that transportation remains a challenge for the district as French Immersion students will not be bused to schools outside of their catchment areas.

There is also a challenge with the number of teachers available to teach the subject, she said.

According to the BC Teachers Federation, the demand for French Immersion in B.C. continues to grow, but there is a shortage of teachers who are qualified to teach French Immersion.

In Vernon, there are so few spaces for French Immersion students the district adopted a lotto system.

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