Greater Trail french immersion classes fill up

Future of program at secondary school level up in the air

French immersion enrolment is on the rise across the province and School District 20 is no exception.

Currently, there is a waiting list for students who want to learn everyday subjects in a second language at Rossland Summit School (RSS), but with no French immersion programming at J.L. Crowe Secondary School, the future of immersion for high school students in Trail is uncertain.

“Both classrooms (at RSS) are full at 30 students,” said Bill Ford, assistant superintendent for SD20. “The new intake (for French immersion) at Grade 6, continues to have a waiting list. The program has done very well.”

Right now, only Stanley Humphries Secondary School (SHSS) in Castlegar offers high school level French immersion, so the question remains, what about students in Trail who want to continue their immersion high school education without travelling to Castlegar?

At Monday’s SD20 board meeting, it was revealed that students currently in French immersion at RSS don’t have the option of continuing their French immersion studies at a high school level without going to SHSS.

Ford says there are no answers as to whether J.L. Crowe will start to offer immersion courses for when current elementary immersion student eventually get to high school.

“Those decisions are yet to be made,” he said. “We only started this last year and we are going to have to make those decisions soon.”

The success of the immersion program at RSS hasn’t gone unnoticed, even at a provincial level.

The Canadian Parents for French in BC and the Yukon have published a report showing the steady increase in numbers for French immersion programs in the school district. The report stated that at the end of the 2013-2014 school year, there were 202 French immersion students out of the 3,739 students enrolled in SD20.

Glyn Lewis, executive director at Canadian Parents for French in BC and the Yukon, says he attributes the jump in enrolment in recent years to continued success to former immersion students now having their own kids.

“French immersion has been around for over 35 years now,” he said.

“It is a really well tested and tried immersion program delivery model. We have got second and third generation graduates coming through the program now. My generation, who went through it are having kids now and putting their kids in the program because they remember the experiences that they had and they want their kids to have the same opportunities.”

Lewis also has a few suggestions for parents who want to push for answers regarding a future immersion program in Trail.

“Lots of smaller communities are struggling to keep their numbers up and we don’t have that issue here,” he said. “Round up the parents and put a bit of pressure on the trustees. Continue that conversation and push them to start planning for it. You really don’t want to be caught in May or June without anything figured out. The other alternatives are online courses, reading, or being exposed to French media and all that stuff is great, but it is only supplementary to being part of the program.”