The school district taketh but also giveth.
A Late French Immersion program is being slated for Rossland’s former secondary school building, just days after School District 20 (SD20) trustees officially slammed the door on keeping three senior secondary school grades in the city.
The program has been announced for some time—one deadline for registration has passed—but registration has been sluggish in the Greater Trail region, and could jeopardize the establishment of the new program.
The deadline for registration in the program—for current Grade 5 students—for next year has been extended to Thursday, after the program fell eight students short of its goal of 25 over one week ago.
To sweeten the pot and entice in eight more students for fall, the district has offered the program to current Grade 6 students in the region, creating a combined program for the coming school year.
SD20 director of instruction, Bill Ford, said realization of the program in Rossland needs only a few students to get it over the hump and into reality.
“There have been several attempts made in the past to get a Late French Immersion program going at this end of the school district, but none of the previous attempts have worked,” he said.
“It is an awesome thing for the south of the school district,” and for Rossland.
Of the current Grade 5 students registered for the program, 16 are from Rossland, one is from Fruitvale but there are none from Trail, Warfield or Montrose.
“That is surprising to me because I think this is such an opportunity for kids and the fact that Rossland is just up the hill,” said Ford.
As the program is new to the south end of the district, the board indicated that a minimum of 25 students needed to be enrolled in the program for it to proceed.
Late French Immersion is available for students who are presently enrolled in a School District 20 school and are in Grade 5, and Grade 6 for the combined program in Rossland.
There are three sites in the district that offer the program, including Castlegar’s Twin Rivers Elementary in the north end of the district (for grades 6 and 7), Rossland School in the south end of the district (for grades six to nine), and Stanley Humphries Secondary in Castlegar (grades eight to 12).
Glenmerry or Webster elementary schools did not get the Late French Immersion program because in a few years a forecasted growing enrolment would mean the school buildings would be full, said Ford. To add two classes of program into the schools would have meant adding portables, he noted, and the SD20 board does not want to add portables.
Rossland had room to host the program now that the soon-to-be former Rossland Secondary School building will be a kindergarten to Grade 9 facility in the fall.
If the program goes ahead, students will remain as a group for four years in Rossland, being transferred to Castlegar’s Stanley Humphries Secondary School for grades 10 to 12.
“When that happens in three years, who knows?” said Ford about the move. “There will be a new board then, and parents might advocate their children to go to Crowe (in Trail). I don’t know what the future holds.”
Although Ford was confident the program would have the numbers to justify its existence in fall, he was “prepared to go back to the board if they were close,” two or three students off the mark of 25.
There are a maximum of 30 student placements available for the Grade 6 French Immersion program at each school site. This is a legislated class size that cannot be exceeded. If there are more than 30 applicants at each site, the 30 seats will be filled by a lottery “draw.”
Children whose names are not in the first 30 drawn will be placed on a wait list kept at each site.
School District 20 recognizes that French Immersion programming benefits the cognitive and social development of students, as well as their opportunities for career advancement.
Research demonstrates that students who successfully complete a French Immersion program attain functional bilingualism while doing as well, or better than, their unilingual peers in the content areas of curriculum, including English Language Arts.
Bilingualism is achieved by providing the majority of instruction of the basic curriculum in French during the first few years of the program.
Once a firm base in French has been established, instruction in English Language Arts is added, and instruction broadly in the English language increases. Students continue to receive instruction in certain subjects in French so that by the end of Grade 12, proficiency is achieved in both languages.
The Late French Immersion program provides students with an education equivalent to that which is available in the English language program; in other words, students in an Immersion program will learn the same things as students who are not in an Immersion program, according to the Ministry of Education’s prescribed learning outcomes for each grade.
The difference, of course, is that the Late French Immersion Program provides opportunities for students to acquire a high level of proficiency in French.
Upon graduation from the program in Grade 12, students should be able to participate easily in French conversations, take post-secondary courses with French as the language of instruction, and accept employment with French as the language of work.
In the first two years of the Late French Immersion program, French will be used to deliver the instructional program for 80 per cent of the time, while English will be used for 20 per cent.
— From School District 20