French Immersion on the chopping block in Chetwynd

The wheels have started to turn on phasing out the program at Ecole Windrem Elementary

After years of low enrolment coupled with teacher and parent claims of underfunding, the wheels have begun to turn on the process of phasing out French Immersion at Chetwynd’s Windrem Elementary School.

“It’s been increasingly difficult to provide quality programs with low enrolment numbers,” School District 59 spokesperson Candy Clouthier said. “It’s also creating huge classroom configuration difficulties.”

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Currently, there are 49 students enrolled in Windrem’s French Immersion program. They are split between three classrooms. Because schools are funded on a per student basis, a class requires about 16 students in order to pay for a teacher.

Some primary French Immersion classes only have three students, Clouthier said. “It’s really hard to do configurations that are best going to meet the needs of children that are learning a second language,” she said. 

At its meeting Sept. 21, the district’s Board of Education decided it would conduct a review of the program to see if it needs to be phased out. 

“If (the board) were to move to cancellation, we would make a plan to transfer the students in the program,” Clouthier said. Clouthier was unable to offer further detail until public consultations had been completed. 

Open house meetings will be held in Chetwynd in the near future, but dates have not yet been set. 

“We’re going to include the public in the conversation,” Clouthier said. 

There is no firm date yet for when the school would stop offering French Immersion.

The school began offering French Immersion in 2004. 

Representatives from Canadian Parents for French, a national advocacy group for French as a second language, could not be reached for comment.

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