French immersion program nears chopping block

Enrolment into the French immersion program at St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School in Innisfail must meet the class size initiative targets or the program will be scrapped after the 2011-12 school year.

Enrolment into the French immersion program at St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School in Innisfail must meet the class size initiative targets or the program will be scrapped after the 2011-12 school year.

The Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division French immersion program is nearing the chopping block because of low enrolment, reduced education funding and the increased cost of adding an additional grade to the existing kindergarten to Grade 3 program. At its April meeting, the board of trustees gave the school a one-year reprieve after about 15 parents fought to keep the program alive.

Last evening the board of trustees said a final decision will be made at its March 2012 meeting and after the final enrolment tallies for the 2011-12 school year.

Targets within the provincial class size initiative suggest for Grades 1 to 3 there should be 17 students in a classroom and for Grade 4 there should be 24 students. Projected enrolment for the four grades is around 31 students with only three students registered in kindergarten.

“The numbers have to be there in order to sustain the program and it is viable,” said Supt. Paulette Hanna. “If the numbers appear they can sustain the program then it will continue, if not then the board will have to decide what they want to do.”

Next year will look different for the students currently enrolled in the program. The classrooms have been reconfigured for the year. Because of the low numbers, the classes will be combined. In one class there will be a kindergarten/Grade 1 and 2 class and a blended Grade 3 and Grade 4 class.

Since the April meeting plans have begun to take shape for the 10-month enrolment drive.

Parents and school staff have had brainstorming meetings to market, promote the program and to finds ways to support parents who may be hesitant to put their children in French immersion. The program was introduced in 2007 and currently has 34 students in kindergarten to Grade 3.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com