There will not be a French-first school in Smithers in September.
A group of parents rallied together over the past year to try and start a small francophone school. They applied to the the Conseil scolaire francophone (the French public school board in B.C.) but were denied last week. The board of directors voted 4-3 not to support the school and did not give a reason why.
Currently the closest francophone schools are in Terrace and Prince George. There is a French Immersion program at Muheim but there is currently a wait list for Kindergarten.
Jason O’Bright is one of the parents trying to get the school started and doesn’t think it had anything to do with Smithers being a small town.
“They’ve started schools with eight kids or so but they didn’t want to this time. It is frustrating but there isn’t much more we can do at this point,” he said.
O’Bright said he’s heard a lot of interest for the idea of the school.
“We have three or five kids for every grade level but the parents of kids in 3rd or 4th grade aren’t too keen on it so we asked for K-2 school, and then we can grow from there,” he said. “The parents of the younger kids are very keen. If the kids go to a french school where the posters are in french, the bus drivers speak french and all the people speak french, kids are more likely to speak it at home and less likely to lose the language.”
O’Bright said they have teachers qualified, suitable places available for the school and that the Francophone population has grown slightly since 2011. He will reapply to have the board support a school for the following year.
“We are pretty optimistic that we’ll get a school in 2019.”