Parents pack the board room at last school year’s committee meeting on French Immersion. Chris Gareau photo

Changes to French Immersion enrolment

A sign-up sheet to do a lottery system was a suggestion, with siblings still getting in.

Changes are coming to the policy for the French Immersion program.

The school board is looking at changing how students gain a spot in the program.

“The previous policy didn’t really provide a lot of guidance in how people got into the program — people would line up starting at four or five in the morning. That seemed one unfair, and kind of archaic,” said Bulkey Valley School District 54 (BVSD 54) superintendent Chris van der Mark, who stated a sign-up sheet to do a lottery system was a suggestion.

“In the spring the major feedback on the policy was people were really determined that if you had a sibling in the program, siblings should have a priority. So that policy, that did get amended in the spring to make sure that it was reflected in policy. It’s one larger policy, so it wasn’t fully approved yet and then it went back out to consultation to get feedback on whether to do a lottery system or not. Some people didn’t like the lottery, some people went, ‘no I will line up at whatever [time] I want my spot,’ but at the end of the day the bulk of the feedback was a lottery made sense.”

This school year four families were placed into the French Immersion program at Muheim Memorial Elementary School after being put on the waitlist last year.

“Over the summer, we’ve had just the right number of people that have either moved or chosen a different program and that’s opened up the spaces so that all of those four families who were moved over to the waitlist are back in where they thought they were,” van der Mark stated.

“The unfortunate part is they had to go through that. One of the parents said quite rightfully so, ‘look if we had not been told we were in, it wouldn’t be a problem, right we’re told we’re in than we’re told we’re out and that’s the upsetting [part]’ … We get that. We’re happy that for those four families who were most affected.”

van der Mark stated there are currently seven or eight families now on the waitlist, which doesn’t warrant creating a new division for the French Immersion program.

Earlier this year, parents expressed their frustration with the long waitlist for the school’s French Immersion Kindergarten program for this school year. Some parents at the time said that waitlist would be even longer if other parents thought their kids could get in.

Last spring BVSD 54’s policy committee looked at the District’s making kids who already have siblings enrolled in French Immersion a priority. Statistically, 19 of 24 spaces are taken up by siblings in the Kindergarten class of 2017-18.

Related:

Smithers council concerned with state of French Immersion

‘It was inappropriate’: SD54 chairperson’s on council’s French immersion motion

Northwestern B.C. French Immersion program stays intact for now