As French immersion enrolment continues to rise, a group of parents has offered to collaborate with the Brandon School Division on expanding course offerings at the high school level.
"It’s a successful program across the board, so why would you not want to build upon that success?" Kerri Lynn Gudz, a member of the newly resurrected Canadian Parents for French Brandon Chapter, said in a recent interview with the Sun.
"We do realize there are all sorts of dilemmas that our school division is facing right now; this is just one of them, so it’s probably best to have phases to phase it in."
Although École secondaire Neelin High School offers many of the compulsory grades 9 to 12 courses in French, there are very few electives to choose from. Gudz points out that additional teacher hires and space restrictions are all factors affecting the expansion of high school French immersion courses.
"We would like to look creatively and collaboratively at all potential options and ideas to see if this concern may be overcome in the long term," she said.
Brandon’s École New Era School and Shilo’s École O’Kelly School both offer dual-track French immersion for kindergarten to Grade 8, while École Harrison offers single-track for grades K to 8. Neelin High School offers dual-track French immersion for grades 9 to 12.
The dual-track schools offer French immersion and English language classes, while single-track schools only offer French immersion programs.
According to Gudz, the number of French immersion students at New Era has grown from 150 students in September 2010 to 250 students expected for the 2014-15 school year. The number of French immersion students at O’Kelly has also grown by 25 per cent over the last four years, she said.
BSD currently has roughly 700 students enrolled in a French immersion program.
"Our numbers have grown every year," École Harrison principal Craig Laluk said, adding he predicts they’ll welcome roughly 350 students this fall. "The people that do the research into their children’s education know that French immersion is just a proven program for success."
Gudz’s three children attend École Harrison. Being that they’re an English-speaking family at home, Gudz said they wanted their children’s school to offer them something different.
"We viewed it as an opportunity," she said. "Canada has two official languages and we want our children to know them both, to provide them with opportunities and choices."
Terri-Lynne and Scott Hlady’s two children also attend École Harrison. When asked why they chose French immersion for their children, they pointed to several reasons including "opportunity" as well as an "increase in achievements in reading, language skills and math."
Earlier this month, Gudz made a presentation to school board trustees asking how the local French immersion chapter can help with the planning and development of high school course offerings.
School board chair Mark Sefton said the group "raised a number of interesting points."
Vice-chairperson Jim Murray also encouraged the group to prepare a presentation for an upcoming public consultation this fall.
"The fall would be a perfect time for them to come forward and work with us and understand how we can satisfy their needs," Murray said.
"We do view this as something that we want to continue to work on collaboratively with educators, families, administrators and the BSD," Gudz said. "We do really want it to be a team effort with all parents involved."
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