Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror File Photo School District 72 heard last week that adding another class of late French immersion at L’École Phoenix Middle School would cost around $150,000.

Additional French immersion class at L’École Phoenix Middle School gets little support after board report

District to look at future ways to ensure they have enough French immersion for those who want it

One of the things the board of the Campbell River School District was hoping to include in their 2017-18 budget document was the additional late French immersion class at L’École Phoenix Middle School, but based on what they heard at last week’s public meeting – and their responses to that information – it seems unlikely to happen.

At least not next year.

The board heard at the previous meeting that late French immersion at Phoenix had a waiting list of 21 students, and they promised to consider options to remedy that situation.

The board heard from superintendent Tom Longridge and assistant superintendent Nevenka Fair – who were asked at the last meeting to report back with the potential impacts of an additional class – that it would cost the district about $100,000 in teaching time, the renovation of a classroom at approximately $25,000 and another approximately $25,000 in classroom furniture and supplies. And those expenses wouldn’t be covered by any additional funding from the provincial government, so they would have to find the money in their current projected alotment for next year.

The staff report recommended addressing the situation in more of a long-term, sustainable way rather than a knee-jerk reaction to the current waitlist situation.

That seemed to be the consensus around the table after all of the impacts of adding a class were brought forth.

“We do need to look at this long term,” said Trustee Richard Franklin. “This is a situation that could occur again.”

“Our support for French immersion, for late French immersion, is there,” Trustee Darryl Hagen agreed. “It’s just that we need to have a strategic plan for how we can continue to deliver it in an effective way within the buildings that we have while we balance all of our competing interests. I was ready to go to the wall for this tonight, but (after this report) I just can’t, and it saddens me.”

Kathleen Power, one of the concerned parents who made the request for additional immersion space, responded to the board’s discussion with disappointment.

“Listening to the board speak tonight, it didn’t sound favourable,” Power said. “And I know you’re talking about looking at what you can do in the future because this happened, and I understand that, and it’s important, but that’s not going to help these 21 families (with children who aren’t getting in next year), because our future is now, not in a year from now.

“If we had 21 extra kids in an English class that we didn’t have space for next year, would we get another class?” Power continued. “Would we get another teacher? I’m pretty sure we know the answer to that. We’d find the space for them.”