French immersion promoted

The fate of the French immersion program at St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School in Innisfail is still up in the air.

The fate of the French immersion program at St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School in Innisfail is still up in the air.

In early spring, the Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools board of trustees put the kindergarten to Grade 3 program on the chopping block because of declining enrolment, decreased education funding and the increased cost of expanding the program to Grade 4.

A last-minute plea from parents gave the program a one-year reprieve to turn the enrolment around and ensure the program would remain sustainable.

Since May, the district’s administration and school staff have worked with the community and parent groups to bring more students to the French immersion program.

“We haven’t seen the growth we would like to have seen thus far,” said school district superintendent Paul Mason.

“But we do have a committed school administration and committed parent group that are going to do what it takes in order to continue the growth in this program.”

There are 251 students enrolled in the kindergarten to Grade 9 school, a decrease of five students from the 2010-2011 school year. In the French immersion program, there are 23 students from kindergarten to Grade 4.

Mason said the board of trustees will look at overall enrolment numbers at the school, including French immersion program, when making a final decision at the March 2012 meeting.

Principal Rose MacQuay said school staff and parents stepped up efforts to promote French studies throughout the summer, including showcasing the students at the Innisfail Trade Show and the Innisfail Parade and encouraging parents to join the Canadian Parents for French organization.

Within the school, staff are promoting the French language with the English students with the hopes these students will switch to French immersion.

MacQuay said the slow start is not what they wanted but she is optimistic more students will enrol before the end of September.

The French immersion program began in 2007 with 14 students in kindergarten. Last year, there were 34 students in kindergarten to Grade 3.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com