Parents hoping to get their children a spot in a French immersion school in Vancouver are finding spots tough to come by, and the problem could get worse, advocates say.
The waiting list for the program has grown to 250 names this year, double that of a year ago, yet one French immersion school could be cut when the Vancouver School Board decides on school closures in the coming months.
That's a problem for parents such as Jeffery Smith, who doubts his daughter Katelynn, 5, will end up with one of the coveted spots despite being on the waiting list.
"Well, it absolutely speaks to a demand by parents for that program," Smith said of the huge increase in the waiting list.
Advocates of the program share his concern.
"British Columbia has enjoyed, I think, something like 11 to 12 years of non-stop growth in French immersion, and it would be a shame if, because of budgetary considerations, this success story came to a real halt," said Robert Rothon, executive director with the advocacy group Canadian Parents for French.
Rothon said he holds out hope French programs won't be a target when officials plan next year's budget. However, he added, the outlook is not encouraging.
"We've seen a number of school districts either consolidate schools — change the program delivery model for example from dual-track schools to single-track school — and whenever you do that kind of change you lose students along the way," Rothon said.
"We've looked at some school districts contemplating eliminating the entire French immersion programs."