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French Immersion finds stamp of approval

School board votes in favour of implementing program in fall of 2011



It was a long-waged battle, but parents in support of French immersion at Signal Hill Elementary School in Pemberton have secured the option to have their children taught in French.

After months of listening to the pros and cons of the proposal, the board of trustees for School District #48 voted on the issue last Wednesday. Of six trustees, four approved of the motion.

"There was a set of pretty well defined reasons as to why French immersion would be a good idea, and there were also a set of concerns about its effect on the school, its possible effect on school culture and that sort of thing," said trustee Rick Price, who chaired the meeting. "So each trustee was well aware of what the issues were and basically had to weigh them and make a personal decision about what they thought was most important."

The late French immersion program will be taught to interested Grade 5 and 6 students and will be implemented in the fall of 2011. Once in place, classrooms will be split between regular students and those in French immersion. The split was a primary concern for some teachers at the school, who felt a carefully established cultural balance between students, including First Nations children, might be lost.

"They had a strong position and they had good reasons for their positions so they will be disappointed with this but they are excellent professionals and they'll now work hard to make it work," continued Price.

"It brings choice to the community and it brings opportunities to students. We certainly know that students who graduate and are competent in a second language have options open for them for the rest of their lives that uni-lingual people don't have, so I think that's good for the community and it's certainly good for those students and their families."