French Immersion being reviewed

The future of the French Immersion program here was weighed again at the Northwest Catholic District School Board’s regular monthly meeting Saturday in Sioux Lookout.
“There was really no decision made on it. We actually intend to come back to the board with a full report on projections for the next few years and look at the numbers there,” Education Director John Madigan said Tuesday.
Madigan said only when a complete study of the staffing issue and enrolment numbers had been completed would the board be ready to discuss future scenarios.
“The board was alerted about the difficulty of hiring French Immersion teachers,” Superintendent of Business Chris Howarth noted Monday.
“There is the potential that if we can’t get the teachers, we can’t run the program, but we are nowhere near that at this point,” he stressed.
Currently at St. Francis School, the board is looking for one half-time teacher for the program. As well, it has a francophone resident who is teaching French Immersion without a Bachelor of Education.
“We’re doing the best we can at finding qualified teachers but every board in the province is having difficulty,” Howarth said.
Trustee Gerry Rousseau said the entire staffing situation is distressing.
“It’s frustrating the difficulty we have in hiring French Immersion teachers and that we have to keep the program going by providing inexperienced teachers,” he noted Monday, adding those who do get hired here generally are fresh out of school.
As well, Rousseau wondered if the threat of axing French Immersion at the senior level, which is a concern due to falling numbers, is having an effect on the number of children enrolling in the program in elementary school.
Whatever the report finds, Rousseau said the local Catholic board is committed to keeping the program going. “We will continue to offer French Immersion as long as we can viably sustain the program,” he vowed.
Also at Saturday’s meeting, the board:
•awarded a plaque to principal Margot Saari commemorating Sacred Heart School’s 75th anniversary;
•presented a board pin to Maria Tripney in recognition of 30 years of service; and
•reviewed transportation procedures.