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French immersion eyed for Whistler Secondary

Feb. 20 meeting scheduled for parents who want to learn more



Much has happened since 2009 when the Late French Immersion program in Whistler was on the verge of cancellation due to lack of interest.

Now Whistler Secondary School (WSS) principal Bev Oakley has indicated that there is a very good chance that French immersion will be offered at her school in September.

"I am going to meet with both the French immersion parents and the L'école La Passerelle parents on Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m.," said Oakley on Tuesday, Feb. 12. "Basically what that's about is to gauge the level of interest amongst parents about having a high school French immersion program, so having kids being able to carry on in Grade 8 at the high school level in Whistler."

The meeting is being held in the library at Spring Creek Community School.

"When I look at the three-year projections, in French Immersion this year in Grade 7 they've got 24 students, they've got Grade 6 at 25 and Grade 5 is 29, so that would be enough to run a program," said Oakley.

She said that after the meeting the parents interested in Grade 8 French immersion would be asked to fill out a registration form. Oakley said a firm commitment from parents is required to make the program work.

She added that the resources required for French immersion at her school are mostly in place already. There will be some minor staffing changes required, said Oakley.

While the current numbers suggest a high school program will work in September, parents of Grade 4 students in Whistler were buzzing last week ahead of Grade 5 French immersion registration for September at Spring Creek.

Interest was so high that Natasha Strim decided to show up early for registration to ensure her daughter Georgia was guaranteed a spot in the program next school year.

It worked. Trim arrived at the school at 7 a.m. on registration day and was the first person in line for registration.

"The secretary put down my daughter's name and she looked up at me and said, 'You're in!' so that was that," said Strim. She left happy knowing her daughter's place in French immersion was secured. As Trim left, she noted the line of parents waiting to register their students was long and she said it looked like there might have been as many as 35 families there.

Strim said she spoke with parents from Myrtle Philip and the Waldorf School in advance of registration day and sensed strong interest in French immersion from Grade 4 parents with students at both schools.

According to Spring Creek principal Karen Saenger, there is room for 30 students in the Grade 5 French immersion program but things change between the registration day with students moving away or changing their minds so she couldn't say if the program will be oversubscribed in September.

Saenger said she would be at the meeting on Feb. 20 with Oakley to answer questions.

Late French immersion was added at Pemberton's Signal Hill Elementary in September of 2011 and Squamish students have been offered French immersion since the 1980s.

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