French parents say board decision ‘disappointing’

New Westminster school district’s decision not to add another early French immersion (EFI) class at Herbert Spencer elementary is disappointing to the city’s Canadian Parents for French (CFP) branch.

Last week, the board of education decided against adding a fourth kindergarten class at the school, despite the demand for it.

In its education committee meeting, trustees sided with many parents who said the school was already too crowded.

However, CFP-New Westminster interim president Stephanie Hodge felt that wasn’t necessarily the case and the decision would deprive many students of learning a second language.

“We are disappointed with the decision with the fact 22 kids won’t be able to take advantage of French immersion this year, and looking at the numbers most of them won’t be able to take advantage at all,” said Hodge, referring to the possibility of them doing late French immersion when they reach Grade 6.

“We are disappointed they didn’t even bring it to the board for a vote, which happened last year. The demand for French immersion is growing, but we’re hopeful we’ll be able to work closely with the school board to meet the growing demand.”

French immersion is currently taught at Spencer, Lord Tweedsmuir and John Robson elementaries.

Hodge said the organization will continue to seek another stream of French immersion in the district.

In writing to trustees as an individual parent, past CFP-New West president Heidi Clarkson said because the board denied a similar proposal last year, 44 students are “missing the chance to learn one of Canada’s official languages. And the same next year and so on. Like last year the district has a window of opportunity to deal with the EFI demand. And it has a responsibility to do so. I acknowledge all the concerns some parents have brought up. They are all valid. But you cannot ignore the facts.”

Following last week’s decision, two trustees expressed disappointment to the NewsLeader about the divisiveness between English and French parents the issue seems to have caused.

Hodge said she has sensed it as well.

“I’m not surprised [by the trustees’ observation]. I see it at my school, quite severely. It seems horrible,” said Hodge. “There does definitely seem to be a stigma.”

She said there have been times when a parent has stopped talking to her once they realize her children are in the French programs.

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