July 01, 2015

EDHS French Immersion could shift to Orangeville

As published in The Erin Advocate

Despite the popularity of French Immersion in Erin, local students may eventually have to transfer to Orangeville if they want to continue in the program through high school, according to Trustee Kathryn Cooper.

Brisbane, Erin Public and Erin District High School (EDHS) are all are dual track schools, offering both French Immersion and regular instruction, and Orangeville students are currently bused to EDHS for French Immersion.

With little population growth in Erin, and strong growth elsewhere, that situation could be reversed, with Erin students having to go to Orangeville for French Immersion.

“This will be a fight that we will have to fight,” said Cooper. “There are demands for a French Immersion High School in Orangeville. In about four or five years’ time, there will be more kids coming from Orangeville into EDHS French Immersion than there will be coming from this region. At some point, the parents are going to say, that’s crazy, why wouldn’t we bring the smaller group of kids into Orangeville rather than the bigger group of kids into Erin.”

Between now and December, the Upper Grand District School Board will be reviewing all of its French Immersion and Core French programs, with the goal of creating a sustainable, efficient system with “equity of access”.

Cooper says Erin’s elementary school French Immersion programs are doing fine and are not at risk of closing. There is no French Immersion at Ross R. MacKay School in Hillsburgh, and that school is at risk of closing entirely within a few years if there is no population increase.

Erin has three representatives on the large board committee that is starting the review – Trustee Cooper, Parent Sandra Paolucci and Student Trustee Dylan Challinor. After each Committee meeting they will hold a meeting with local parent council members and other interested members of the public to share information and gather input.

“I’m not worried about the high school in general, but if you move out the Orangeville kids and the Erin French Immersion kids, then you have a more challenging situation, because there’s so many kids that go into French Immersion in the Erin area,” said Cooper.

If the Orangeville high school students move out and the Erin students stay, it will weaken Erin’s French Immersion program. Despite its popularity, there may still be not enough students to offer an optimal program.

More information on the process, and a link to the terms of reference for the review, is available on Cooper’s blog, www.cooper4trustee.wordpress.com.

Erin has almost 500 French Immersion students (elementary and secondary combined). Two thirds of the kids at Brisbane are in French Immersion. Two out of every three students in junior and senior kindergarten that were enrolled last year in Guelph went into French Immersion, and some Guelph schools are completely French.

“French Immersion has been growing in leaps and bounds around the board, more so in the urban areas such as Orangeville and Guelph. It’s putting accommodation pressures on the existing schools. When you have dual track schools, you can’t put as many kids into the school – you can’t balance the classes in the optimal way,” said Cooper.

“Sometimes you have so few kids in the English track in the Guelph area that you’ve got Grade 1-2 splits and 2-3 splits. So the more schools with these dual track systems, the more pressure we have and the more schools we need. If this continues to grow at this pace, there’s going to be a problem.”

Upper Grand is one the few boards that actually bus French Immersion students. In other boards it’s considered a specialty program, with no busing provided.

Other boards have put caps on French Immersion or held lotteries to get into the program, something that Cooper does not want to do.