Fate of French Immersion expected tonight

After deferring a decision at last month’s meeting, the Northwest Catholic District School Board is expected to vote on the fate of its French Immersion program tonight.
In a report submitted at last month’s meeting, Director of Education Laurie Bizero and Superintendent of Education Al Cesiunas recommended the board discontinue the French Immersion program at both St. Michael’s and St. Francis on a year-by-year basis.
The phase-out would begin with the senior kindergarten class this September and end in 2013 when the last Grade 8 French Immersion class graduates.
The recommendation was made based on declining enrolment in the program, as well as high attrition rates and a shortage of French Immersion teachers in Ontario.
As of Feb. 16, there were 13 children enrolled in the French senior kindergarten program for this fall. The board requires a minimum enrolment of 20 students to run the class.
Marie Brady, president of the local chapter of Canadian Parents for French, appeared before the board last month to urge it to keep the program running, and to investigate why enrolment is low and attrition high.
“We still need a commitment. Not a one-year-at-a-time commitment but a full commitment to the program,” Brady argued. “There are lots of avenues to take instead of cutting the program.”
About a dozen CPF members and concerned parents also attended the February meeting.
Following a lengthy discussion, trustees agreed to defer the decision until the March meeting in order to gather more information and to ensure all trustees could have a say on the issue.
Dryden trustees John Borst and Rob vanOort, who is also the vice-chair, were absent from February’s meeting.
The board will hear two delegations relating to French Immersion tonight, one from Brady and another from local resident M. Shawn Russell who has two children enrolled in the program.
While its meetings are open to the public, anyone wishing to address the board is asked to make the request in writing four working days prior to the scheduled meeting date.
Also at tonight’s meeting, the board will receive its audited financial statements for the year ending Aug. 31, 2004.