School board to vote tonight on fate of French immersion at Kitsilano school

The fate of the French immersion program at Henry Hudson Elementary School will be decided at a Vancouver School Board meeting tonight. 

Trustees will vote on a motion to phase out the program, which would make this year’s kindergarten class the last to accept enrolment.

Many parents are worried about losing the French immersion program. 

“It’s been very stressful for families and our children,” said Josh Paterson, a parent on the school’s advisory council. 

“Some parents have had to think carefully about whether or not they should be looking at other schools, which threatens the existing program here and creates a stress in their life,” Paterson said.

Parent Josh Paterson said the kids at Hudson don’t want to be torn from their school or lose their French immersion program. (Radio-Canada)

The phase-out was one of several options recommended in a recent report to deal with the school being over capacity. There is not enough classroom space to accommodate the English program as well as French immersion. 

There are many families that get turned away every year.– Glyn Lewis, Canadian Parents for French

Adrian Keough, director of instruction for the VSB, said under the School Act of B.C., the board must provide education in English as a priority.

“We’re are at a point now where we cannot continue to enrol French immersion, and accept all of the English students who want to take the English program in that school,” Keough said. 

“We’ve taken away the staff room, we’ve taken away computer rooms, we’ve added portables. All trying to mitigate the situation,” he said. 

Keough said the school board remains committed to French immersion and added about 100 seats across the district last year. 

High demand for French immersion

Glyn Lewis, B.C.’s executive director of Canadian Parents for French, said accessibility of French immersion is already a major issue, especially in downtown Vancouver and Kitsilano.

“To cut a French immersion program in a neighbourhood, in a part of the city where there’s already very long wait lists, makes no sense,” Lewis said. 

“There are many families that get turned away every year,” he said. 

Originally, the report recommended moving the seats to Lord Strathcona Elementary School in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. 

However, feedback indicated that “very few” parents at Hudson would choose to enrol their children at Strathcona as an alternative due to an additional 25 to 35 minute commute.

Parent Joanne Garrie hopes her youngest daughter will be able to attend French immersion at Henry Hudson school, alongside her two older daughters. (Radio-Canada)

Joanne Garrie has two daughters who attend Hudson in French immersion. She hopes her youngest daughter can do the same. 

She said providing a place to learn French is important to her and her family, and they’ve built their community around the program and it’s current location. 

“My daughter, who started French in Grade 1, she says, ‘I found my passion, this is where I love learning is in French.’ I can’t take that away from her now. That would be very destructive,” Garrie said.  

The school board meeting begins at 7 p.m. PT. 

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