The Central Okanagan Board of Education has signed off on the French Immersion expansion plan for West Kelowna.
At the board’s Wednesday meeting, the trustees chose Hudson Road Elementary over Rose Valley Elementary to open a Grade 4 FI program in September 2019, with those students to transition to Glenrosa Middle School for Grade 6 in 2021.
The board also voted for students in the first cohort of early FI students will transition from Ecole George Pringle Elementary to Glenrosa Middle School in 2019 for Grade 6.
The resolutions, which had unanimous support, marked the end of months of debate, and saw the Pringle Elementary transition to Glenrosa Middle School pushed ahead from 2021 to 2019 advocated for by board of education chair Moyra Baxter and Lake Country trustee Deb Butler.
Baxter said it would be crazy now to not start funnelling students into GMS next year rather than wait another two years, during which students would be shuffled to an already overcrowded KLO Middle School.
“There has always been issues with parents about the middle school, and it does matter when we do it. People are not going to be happy if they feel their kids are affected negatively by this,” Baxter said.
“I was a parent in this school district when the first French Immersion school opened. It was very small cohort then but that’s how you do it. You have to start from some point and grow it. We can’t keep putting this off. We have to bite the bullet and just do it.”
Butler and Baxter both cited disappointment about comments from parents that FI students don’t intermingle well with English language students generally, and that a small cohort could leave them feeling isolated.
“We have kids in this district every week who speak no English at all, and yet we integrate each of them into the school system and they learn their way forward. I don’t think we give students enough benefit of the doubt about how they can adjust to this,” Baxter said.
Trustee Rolli Cacchioni noted his concern about the growing pressure on KLO Middle School, with the growth in the Mission and interest among parents to register their kids up in French Immersion.
“I’m not sure the school can continue to take in Westside French Immersion students until 2021,” said Cacchioni.
The board also adopted a resolution for the school district administration to begin consultation with the West Kelowna community about the addition of FI to Hudson Road Elementary next fall.
Part of that consultation will also give consideration to what school bus transportation options might be available to make the Hudson Road school option more accessible to a wider area of Westside students.
One parent at the meeting expressed her disappointment with the decision, saying it has been a point of discussion with their family and may cause them to move from West Kelowan to Kelowna so their FI child can be in a program with alarger student enrolment.