SD59 hopes to accommodate remaining Chetwynd French Immersion students

It is becoming more difficult to keep the French Immersion program in Chetwynd.

When School District 59 board members voted in March 2018 to discontinue French Immersion in Chetwynd, they agreed to support the remaining students at Chetwynd Secondary School complete the program through Grade 12.

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When the board made the original decision, the District was able to use distance French Immersion packages from Alberta, but they can no longer use them. Other districts in BC had offered packages in the past, but not anymore, district officials say.

“That leaves us in a precarious situation in terms of being able to meet the requirements of the French Immersion program,” said Superintendent Candace Clouthier.

There are currently six students in the program — two in grade eight, two in grade nine, and two in grade 11. Clouthier notes there is one teacher with one block per semester for face to face time with the students.

It’s a difficult situation going forward.

“For the rest of this year, we’re fine. We’re going to be able to meet the requirements for this year. The plan would be to look at a similar format as we have this year with the teacher having one block per semester, but we do need to have two courses a year and that’s the very minimum,” said Clouthier.

“It’s not the recommended — it’s the absolute minimum.”

She noted occasional field trips this year for the students into Dawson Creek to engage with other students in French. Opportunities next year would depend on where they need to put general French funds.

Cost is also an issue. “It’s not fiscally reasonable or sustainable,” secretary-treasurer Melissa Panoulias noted, to have one teacher for six students, a number that will go down further as students graduate.

Clouthier said she hopes the program continues next year when two of the students will be in their graduation year, and then they will have to look if it is feasible for the four remaining after that year, if they choose to continue. 

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