A decision on starting an interim French Immersion (FI) program on the Westside has been delayed until June.
The Central Okanagan School District planning and facilities committee felt a more definitive timeline on the new secondary school proposed for West Kelowna needs to be confirmed before introducing an FI program for students currently enrolled at Ecole Kelowna Secondary (KSS), which is facing projected overcrowding issues over the next three years.
The board of education had referred the matter back to the committee for further recommendation in December, and the issue was discussed at the committee meeting Wednesday (Jan. 6).
Trustee Chantelle Desrosiers, chair of the committee, said the consensus of the committee was there’s no need to rush into a decision as any move would not happen until the 2022-23 school year.
“We hope by June we’ll have more concrete timelines about the new high school and provincial funding being in place for that. Without having concrete funding in place as of yet for that project, that worries me,” Desrosiers said.
“If we are going to create a French Immersion program for West Kelowna students it needs to be something that will be sustainable.”
Desrosiers said the overcrowding problems at Mount Boucherie Secondary are already understood, so adding an FI program into that mix could be challenging.
“We don’t want to make a decision that will only exacerbate a problem that already exists,” she said.
As well, school district surveys have already identified that West Kelowna FI parents would prefer their students to continue attending KSS rather than be isolated from other FI students also attending the Kelowna high school.
The school district currently identifies an enrolment of 73 Westside students in the FI program at KSS.
She said the decision will impact the current Grade 8 FI students at Glenrosa Middle School when it comes for them to move on to a secondary school.
“In the end, we want the FI program to be successful, for the community to support it and for parents to enroll their kids in it,” Desrosiers said.
So far, the province has given capital spending priority approval for the new Westside secondary school and secured funding for site acquisition.
The school district administration has previously indicated an announcement of the school proceeding to construction will occur this spring, in conjunction with the provincial government approving its 2021-21 budget.
However, a new school construction period will take up to five years, potentially creating the need to still adopt the interim solution to relieve the enrolment pressure at KSS.
The ultimate hope is that a permanent FI program for Westside students will eventually be earmarked for either the new school or Mount Boucherie Secondary.