French Immersion gets stay of execution

Parents with children entering senior kindergarten in the fall here still will have the option of enrolling them in French Immersion.
The Northwest Catholic District School Board on Saturday voted to run the program this fall—even at the current enrolment of 15 students.
“The board was very clear that it’s just for one more year,” noted Education Director John Madigan.
Should enrolment remain below the minimum of 20 students for French senior kindergarten again next year, the class would have to be discontinued, he added.
“That’s good news for the program,” Marie Brady, a member of the Fort Frances chapter of Canadian Parents for French, said of the board’s decision to keep it going for the 2004-05 school year.
Brady, along with three other members of the CPF, made a presentation to the board via videoconference Saturday about what their group does in the district and why the board should not cancel the French senior kindergarten class for this fall.
While the decision is good news, Brady acknowledged their work is not yet done.
“We will continue to work to increase those numbers,” she vowed.
The local Catholic board held a meeting with parents earlier this month at St. Michael’s School to inform them the French senior kindergarten class for September, 2004 may have to be cancelled if more children do not enroll before mid-April.
High attrition rates are the main reason the board had set the minimum enrolment at 20.
Every year, many French Immersion classes lose students who either move away or switch to the English program.
For example, the 1998-99 French senior kindergarten class began with 26 students. By the end of Grade 2, there only were 13 students left in the class—an attrition rate of 50 percent over three years.
“To us, that’s like a red flag waving.
Shouldn’t somebody be investigating this?” Brady asked.
She urged the board to raise the profile of the program to find out why the attrition rates are so high, and to talk to parents about what they’d like to see in the French Immersion program.
“It needs and deserves a comprehensive review,” Brady said, adding the CPF is willing to help.
“We’re ready to assist the board in any way we can.”^She suggested more advertising to boost the program’s profile, as well as a brochure for parents outlining what French Immersion is and what its benefits are.
Madigan stressed at the meeting with parents earlier this month that students already enrolled in French Immersion were not at risk of losing their program.
Their concern was only with the senior kindergarten class starting this fall.
“The board’s policy is if they’ve started, they’ll see it through to the end. The board is committed to that,” Madigan pledged.
Local CPF chapter president Nina Sokoliuk said there would be a public meeting next Wednesday (April 7) at 7 p.m. at St. Michael’s School for parents looking for information about French Immersion.
Ted Karp, the executive director of CPF Ontario, will be the guest speaker.