A parents’ push for French immersion in Revelstoke has been given new light after the school district launched a community-wide survey on the matter earlier this month.
“We’re hopeful,” said Vanessa Morrow, who along with Stephanie Melnyk has been leading the push for French immersion in Revelstoke. “Just from talking to people in the community there’s a lot of interest among parents who have children who are not even pre-school aged yet. I think it’s just a question of getting the survey in these people’s hands and getting them to return it on time.”
The Revelstoke School District explored French immersion five years ago but at the time there wasn’t enough interest and the issue was put on the back burner.
Melnyk and Morrow pushed the issue to the forefront of last year’s school board elections. At the time, board chair Alan Chell said the district was busy with the new schools but would look at the issue again once the projects were finished.
Now that both new schools are opened, the school district is once again seeking feedback on the issue. Superintendent Anne Cooper said the district was soliciting interest through the survey and would look at the results in January.
The survey was sent out to the entire community through the post office, though this has meant it did not get delivered with ‘no flyer’ designations on their mailboxes. This has prompted Melnyk and Morrow to deliver surveys by hand to make sure everyone has one.
“We’re now back in play,” said Melnyk. “We’re trying to hand out paper copies of the survey to pre-school and child care locations and some of the drop-in centers. That’s just supporting the school board’s initiative.”
Melnyk is hopeful that a combination of higher births, higher kindergarten enrollment and more young families moving to Revelstoke will mean that French immersion will take this time, where it didn’t five years ago.
“The demographics have changed, there’s a lot more young families moving into Revelstoke. That makes a big difference,” she said.
Now their goal is to make sure enough people return the survey by the Friday, Nov. 30, deadline.
“This is where parents need to be committed and say, we are going to commit to this new program,” said Melnyk.
Added Morrow: “If it doesn’t go this time, it will probably be another four years before they look at it again. Interested parents just need to let their interest [be] known.”
Cooper said a French immersion program, if implemented, would start in kindergarten and grade one and eventually grow to encompass every year until grade 12. The curriculum would be exactly the same as it is now, but it would be taught in French. It would run alongside the current English curriculum.
It would not be connected to Revelstoke’s new French school, Ecole des Glaciers, which is run by the Francophone School Board of British Columbia.
“French immersion is intended for Anglophone parents to get an experience in French where they can acquire the language,” said Cooper.
The survey can be downloaded from the school district’s website at www.sd19.bc.ca. Morrow and Melnyk have a Facebook group called Interest in French Immersion and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.