Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror School District 72 will consider adding another class of late French immersion at L’École Phoenix Middle School after seeing a sudden huge increase in demand for the program.

Parents concerned about lack of French immersion spaces available in Campbell River

After years of struggling to get registrants, waitlist numbers could now make another whole class

Some local parents say their children are missing out on a great opportunity due to a lack of spaces in French immersion in Campbell River, and that’s a situation they’d like the school district to rectify.

Aura Haydon, representing the Quadra Island Elementary Parent Advisory Council (PAC), spoke to the Board of Education at last week’s public meeting of the board, saying the current lottery system of assigning seats for the late immersion program at L’École Phoenix Secondary is unfair and leaves far too many families without the ability to have their children educated in French.

Currently, the school district offers one class of late French immersion at Phoenix, which can take 28 children due to legislated maximum class size restrictions. This year the district received 49 applications to the program, meaning 21 students who want to attend the program currently will not be enrolled.

Haydon says that Quadra families, especially, need to be better served by the district in terms of French language opportunities for their children.

“What I’ve heard from Quadra families is that their only opportunity for French immersion is in the late immersion program at Phoenix,” Haydon told the board. “Though an early immersion program in Campbell River is technically available to them, it is simply too difficult – logistically and financially – for children of those families to attend one of those programs.”

Kathleen Power agrees. She registered a child in early immersion years ago, “but then had difficulty with the ferry and all the back and forth, so we’ve waited all this time to do this, and since it’s a random draw, it didn’t work out.”

She also presented a letter of support for an additional class of French immersion at Phoenix to the board at this week’s public meeting.

“The increased interest in the program is an opportunity to expand the program,” Power said, adding that in the public school system, “there should be space for all children, not a select group,” who wish to take a program or offering.

The presentations by Power and Haydon were well received by the board, who said they would take the information into consideration when creating next year’s budget, but they stopped well short of making the commitment of adding a class next year so they can enroll the 21 students currently on the waitlist.

“This district has always, to its utmost ability, tried to support French programs,” said Trustee Darryl Hagen, but added the board has to balance “all our competing interests” during the upcoming budget deliberations. “But know that it will be given consideration, as far as I’m concerned.”

Hagen pointed out that this situation has caught them somewhat off-guard, saying it wasn’t that long ago that the district was “begging” for students to enrol in the program.

“We totally understand and support the value of the program,” board chair Susan Wilson agreed. “I can assure you that we will give due consideration to this – and your timing is good because we’re just about to enter into the budget process. Idealogically, we support the concept, and we’ll do the best we can.”