Sandy Hill Elementary School in Abbotsford. Photo courtesy Abbotsford School District

Teacher shortage leaves B.C. French immersion class learning in English

Concerned parents seek to speak to school board, advocate for solutions for teacher shortage

A group of Abbotsford parents is calling for change from the school district and provincial government as their French immersion children are being taught in English due to a lack of teachers.

Darcy Hanover’s Grade 4 daughter is enrolled in French immersion at Sandy Hill Elementary School, but the teacher has left to accept a job offer in Chilliwack, where she lives.

“We’re having no luck finding replacements, so currently our children are being taught in English, which is not what we signed up for when we’re French immersion,” Hanover said.

RELATED: Abbotsford teachers call out ‘chronic underfunding’ in classrooms

As the province and B.C. Teachers’ Federation gear up for collective agreement negotiations, Hanover said she hopes to see the school board advocate for better pay for teachers, with few provinces paying teachers less than B.C.

But school board chair Shirley Wilson said the board typically hasn’t sent letters to advocate issues to the B.C. government

“They could, but we’ve not typically done that ever in the past, because that’s only one of our employee groups. We have several employee groups,” Wilson said.

RELATED: Abbotsford schools short 54 teachers, including 23 full-time

Hanover and nine other parents from the class are hoping to speak as a delegation at the next school board meeting on Nov. 13 to bring the issue to the school board.

“We’re just a group of concerned parents who are trying to find any way to save this school year for our children, because the message we’re getting form the leadership is that ‘take what you’ve got. Be grateful to have any teacher and the kids can make it up in later years,’” Hanover said. “Which we don’t find an acceptable message to send to nine-year-olds.”

While some students enter French immersion from kindergarten, Wilson said others don’t start until Grade 6.

“All of those kids end up in the same classrooms in Grade 8. They merge because their quality of instruction has been such that they can all learn at the same level at that point,” Wilson said.

RELATED: BCTF wins grievance over teacher shortage in public schools

But Hanover wasn’t convinced that the students’ French won’t go unaffected.

“They talk about the slide that happens over summertime, which is why they’ve every now and then, the idea of full-year school comes up. That’s just two months. What would 12 months do for that backslide?” she said.

“Next year, they’ll be in Grade 5, and that Grade 5 teacher will be having to try to teach two years worth of French. … It’s not like there’s extra resources to make it up next year. We’ve strapped all of our EAs and learning assistants.”

The group of parents suggested the school rotate staff through different classes so each class gets regular exposure to English learning, but Hanover said the school district’s response was not supportive, because it could affect the education of numerous classes, rather than just one.

Abbotsford School District spokesperson Kayla Stuckart said in an email that the district has been working to attract French teachers, including mentorship, prioritizing, creating a full-time recruitment position and financial incentives for relocation.

“Our primary focus during this interim period is to ensure the requirements of the BC curriculum are being met. As such, we have a qualified teacher in the classroom supporting continued student learning in English. We are also adapting to ensure that students are still getting continued exposure to the French language,” Stuckart said.

That includes “team-teaching” three days a week for French reading and writing, joint field trip and other events with other French immersion classes, a buddy program between French immersion secondary and elementary students and bringing in fourth-year French university students as volunteers.

Report an error or send us your tips, photos and video.

Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

Send Dustin an email.
Like the Abbotsford News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Fundraiser for housefire victim up to $4K

Komi Pelawelo and his son were not home that Saturday morning when a blaze broke out on Slack Road.

Flash mobs for the protest era

Observations by Resource Works’ Stewart Muir on LNG’s brusque rite of passage into resource radicalism

Author warns of dangerous goods being carried by rail

Bruce Campbell wrote book on Lac-Mégantic disaster, in Smithers Jan. 23.

Telkwa council briefs

Only a quarter of residents are using the Village recycling program.

Little Shop of Horrors back in Hazelton after 22 years

Hazelton Secondary School puts on four performces starting Saturday. Tickets on sale now.

Canada’s archive buys rare book that hints at Nazi plans for North America

The 1944 book may have served as a blueprint for a Nazi purge

Teravainen’s 3 points lift Hurricanes to 5-2 win over Canucks

Vancouver heads into all-star break on losing note

47 men arrested by Vancouver police for allegedly seeking sex with teenage girls

Seven of those arrested have been charged as part of a two-month operation

B.C. hospital apologizes for veteran’s five-day hallway stay

Clinical director of Victoria General Hospital says case of retired veteran ‘definitely excessive’

Speaker Darryl Plecas says ‘justice’ needed for legislature employees

Plecas spoke to media at the opening of a pedestrian and cycling bridge in Abbotsford Wednesday

Advocate hopes B.C. legislature scandal leads to more transparency

‘Depressing’ that it takes a scandal to inspire freedom of information reform, says Sara Neuert

‘Dr. Lipjob’ avoids jail, gets 30-day suspended sentence

She will have to serve the 30 days in prison if she commits a breach during her two-year’s probation

Ex-Mountie involved in Taser death at Vancouver airport sues government

Kwesi Millington claims he acted in accordance with RCMP training

LETTER: Seniors home care, day programs expanding, Adrian Dix says

B.C. health minister responds to latest Seniors Advocate report

Most Read