Vanessa Morrow (left) and Stephanie Melnyk listen intently as the Revelstoke Board of Education goes over the result from an early French immersion survey.

Parents still hopeful despite unfavourable results of French immersion survey

Survey results for French immersion in Revelstoke are in, and while numbers for 2013 low, that isn't discouraging some local parents

The survey results for French immersion in Revelstoke are in, and while the numbers for 2013 are low, that isn’t discouraging some local parents to keep trying.

“I think the bottom line is if there’s a willingness to offer the program, then there are various creative ways to make it work,” said Stephanie Melnyk following a meeting of the Revelstoke Board of Education on Wednesday. “But there has to be willingness, and I know it’s there from the parents side.”

Melnyk and Vanessa Morrow are leading a drive to start a French immersion program in Revelstoke. They attended a school board meeting late Wednesday afternoon where district superintendent Mike Hooker presented the early results from the French immersion survey the district conducted in November.

The survey asked parents with children entering kindergarten in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and grade one in 2013, about their interest in enrolling their child in a French immersion program.

For 2014, up to 21 families out of 25 respondents expressed interest, depending on what school the program was held at. In 2015, only 14 parents out 22 said they were definitely interested. The other eight asked for more information and said they weren’t fully committed yet.

However, for this coming fall, only 11 families with children entering kindergarten expressed definite interest; as well as 15 families with children entering grade one.

“With 15 total respondents and a potential cohort of 11 students it does not seem feasible at this time to implement kindergarten French immersion this fall,” Hooker told the board. “But I would recommend maintaining the database in order to assess future possibilities.”

Trustees Jeff Nicholson and Mauro Morrone agreed with his findings. Nicholson said that French instruction was a weakness in Revelstoke, but he didn’t think early immersion was the answer. Instead, he suggested a program like intensive French, which is run in other districts.

“I think this would be much more doable in a district like ours,” he said.

Morrone said he agreed that French immersion was beneficial “but as a trustee we have to see if it’s feasible.”

“Obviously for the 2013 year the feasibility is not there but keeping the database active, it doesn’t mean that we can’t revisit it in the future,” he said. “It’s a difficult decision but I think it’s the correct decision for this 2013 year and I think we should see what are options are going to be after that.”

The trustees did not hold a vote. Instead, they will be holding a special board meeting, likely on Jan. 28, to give Melnyk and Morrow a chance to make their case.

“It’s a delicate balance between having enough numbers to maintain a cohort going through high school, but not too many numbers that we disrupt the success of the current English program,” said Melnyk. “In our district it means one class, and the numbers support one class in each of those years. I think it’s the perfect number that we have, it’s just that there’s something missing from the 2013 cohort so we’ll have to look at that.”

Morrow said the numbers could support one French immersion class going forward.  “If you look at the survey results and the birth rates in the city, it’s steady and even increasing,” she said, noting the strong response for 2014. “You’re only going to get more of that in the years to come. It’s not going down.”

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