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French Immersion option moves forward

Pemberton parents get another opportunity to discuss the issue April 16



By Cindy Filipenko

A survey of Pemberton parents shows there is overwhelming support for French Immersion at the elementary school level.

The survey also indicated a strong preference for the early immersion option. The program could be implemented as soon as this September.

Results, made public last week, indicate that 70 per cent of the 140 respondents favoured implementing a program at Signal Hill Elementary School.

“We are really pleased and encouraged with the results of this survey,” said Joanne Molinaro, spokesperson for Pemberton Parents for French Immersion (PPFI).   “With the support of the community we will continue our efforts to move this initiative forward.”

In researching other communities PPFI found early immersion programs, which have children entering at the kindergarten or Grade 1 level, have proven successful in communities similar in size to Pemberton. One of those communities was Chetwynd, an Interior town with a population of 2,770. Current estimates have the Village of Pemberton’s population at 2,250.

“The community of Chetwynd has been very successful in establishing an early immersion program,” said Molinaro. “The program in Chetwynd started three years ago as a result of the community’s desire to ensure language enrichment for their children through the public education system.”

According to Molinaro, the implementation of French Immersion would qualify Signal Hill Elementary School for additional resources as a result of increased funding.

Principal Pat Mackenzie says that the change would essentially result in a reallocation of funds, with the school receiving federal money for French Immersion-specific resource materials. Mackenzie pointed out that while Superintendent Rick Erickson is supportive of giving parents choice in education, the real decider will be numbers.

“The survey results show a lot of interest, but there are a lot of maybes and we can’t start a program on maybes,” she said.

The numbers needed to establish a French Immersion program vary according to the program’s specifics. Early immersion would require enrolment of between 20 and 44 students, while late immersion needs between 28 and 30 students.

To ascertain the level of interest, pre-registration for French Immersion will begin Monday, April 23.

“This is an opportunity for parents to choose. If there’s enough interest the superintendent will take it to the board,” explained Mackenzie.

Parents eager to learn more about French Immersion will have an opportunity on Monday, April 16 at 7 p.m. when the Signal Hill Parents Advisory Committee will be hosting a forum at the school. This forum is in response to criticism from some parents that a PPFI-sponsored meeting held in January was too one-sided.