French Immersion students will see some changes in how the program is delivered at the elementary school level in the Okanagan Mission area. (File photo)

French Immersion students will see some changes in how the program is delivered at the elementary school level in the Okanagan Mission area. (File photo)

Central Okanagan single track French Immersion school idea dropped

School committee sticks with dual track FI policy

A proposal to create a single-track French Immersion school for the Okanagan Mission has been rejected by the Central Okanagan School District planning and facilities committee.

The committee will recommend to the Central Okanagan Board of Education meeting on Jan. 26 the school district’s current dual-track English/French Immersion policy be continued.

School trustees grappled with the single/dual track argument, but the overriding sentiment was the single track was an unfair equity displacement of school resources and would leave students isolated from English-speaking students and the greater community.

The committee consists of three school trustees but all the other non-voting board of education trustees participated in the meeting.

As part of the catchment area changes, the committee opted for K-2 English and French Immersion programs being moved from École Dorothea Walker Elementary to École Bellevue Creek Elementary, a closed school set to reopen for the 2022-23 school year.

Dorothea Walker will host a Grade 3-6 dual-track program. Bellevue Creek will begin with K-1 in 2022-23 and expand to K-2 in 2023-24 to minimize initial student disruption.

Other catchment changes will see The Ponds and Crawford Estates areas moved into the Dorothea Walker/Bellevue Creek elementary catchment area, while area families between Barnaby and Frost roads will be moved to Anne McClymont Elementary.

Revised catchment boundaries for Mission schools. (Contributed)

Revised catchment boundaries for Mission schools. (Contributed)

All students will remain at their current schools, with the exception of K-2 Dorothea Walker students now earmarked for Bellevue Creek to begin their elementary schooling.

The changes also offer a reprieve for one year for existing childcare programs to continue operating at Bellevue Creek.

It is anticipated that two additional childcare programs will be open in the Mission district for the 2023-24 school year, as both school district initiatives have been confirmed for provincial funding.

Trustee Chantelle Desrosiers, committee chair, said the school district is conscious of trying to minimize disruption to students and families with the catchment changes while trying to preserve and enhance access to French Immersion.

She said trustees understand the benefits of these catchment adjustments but haven’t lost sight of the short-term pain of moving students and the impact that has on families.

“And as a family looking at French Immersion as important to you, I can understand the idea that being surrounded by the French language all the time in a single-track school would be a very attractive option,” she said.

Trustee Moyra Baxter, chair of the Central Okanagan Board of Education, said while there was some positive response in Okanagan Mission parent surveys to a single track FI school “that doesn’t mean we should do it.”

Baxter said trustees are elected to act in the best interests of the entire school district, and that talking to parents face-to-face is equally if not more representative than people responding to survey questions or sending in emails.

And if a single track FI school is adopted for the Mission, the idea will attract appeal for other areas of the school district, she added.

Trustee Lee-Ann Tiede said her three kids were all enrolled in French Immersion and she saw the benefits of the dual-track policy for them.

“I saw a lot of benefits from having two languages spoken in a school and the student intermingling between the two,” Tiede said.

“You see the interaction that takes place on the school ground and with children in sports, as there are not French Immersion and English teams.”

Zach Johnson, attending the meeting as a representative of the Central Okanagan Student Council, said the divide between FI and English is more evident at middle and senior secondary school levels than at the elementary grades.

“I think when it comes to the choice of electives and having to take the extra language courses that English students don’t have to care where the differences come in,” Johnson said.

Ryan Stierman, Central Okanagan Public Schools secretary-treasurer, said the debate between single and dual-track schools is a philosophical one for trustees, but either way, it doesn’t change the school district’s commitment to providing a quality education experience for both FI and English students.

READ MORE: School catchment, French Immersion changes suggested

READ MORE: French Immersion shift at KSS upsetting to parents

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