Enrolment threatens French Immersion at Fort High

Low enrolment is threatening the French Immersion program at Fort Frances High School and principal Ian Simpson isn’t sure how much longer they can keep it running.
“The numbers are dropping to the point that it becomes very difficult to provide teachers,” Simpson said.
The high school currently operates a French Immersion diploma program for students coming from St. Francis School who want to continue their education in French.
Students must complete 10 credits in French during their high school years to receive the diploma.
This year, nine students in Grade 9, 10 in Grade 10, 11 in Grade 11, and eight in Grade 12 are working to complete their diploma requirements.
“The numbers are so small that we have to combine Grade 9 and 10 classes,” Simpson noted. “We teach Grade 10 history one year and the next year Grade 9 geography.”
The problem of smaller class sizes is compounded by the fact Fort High has lost nine teachers in the last four years.
“We can offer 54 less sections than we offered the same number of kids four years ago,” Simpson said. “This is no fault of the board but the result of funding decrease from the funding formula.
“We offer classes based on what kids select,” he noted, adding the high school is responsible for seeing that as many students as possible get the classes they need.
Some 13 students currently are enrolled in French Immersion at St. Francis but Simpson is worried that number will continue to drop, especially since half of the students in the Grade 8 program last year dropped out of it when entering high school.
“We have to take a really good look at it and see if we can continue to offer the program,” he said.
A review of the French Immersion program is planned for this year. Simpson will be working with the Northwest Catholic District School Board to determine how many students are coming up through the system and if they can keep it going.
Options such as downgrading from a diploma (where students must take 10 credits in French) to a certificate (where seven credits are required) also might be considered to retain French Immersion at Fort High.
Simpson said it is far too soon to know for sure what will happen to the French Immersion program yet.
“It depends on the number of kids at St. Francis next year. If all the kids stay in the program, it looks good,” he said.
“If half of them drop out and it’s down to seven kids planning on taking it in Grade 9, then the numbers may be just too low.”