The French immersion experience at three Catholic elementary schools is under review as the Waterloo Catholic District School Board looks to expand its immersion program starting in 2018.

The board first offered French immersion in 2015 to students entering Grade 1 at St. Anne school in Kitchener and Sir Edgar Bauer in Waterloo. In 2016, the board expanded the program to include Our Lady of Fatima school in Cambridge. 

According to a staff report, there are now 216 students enrolled in French immersion programs at the three schools:

  • St. Anne: 100 students in Grades 1 to 3.
  • Sir Edgar Bauer: 73 students in Grades 1 to 3.
  • Our Lady of Fatima: 43 students in Grades 1 and 2.

"The program has been a successful program," John Klein, superintendent of learning with the board told CBC.

"The review really entails the logistics of housing the program, because of the fact that we only have it at three schools and we want to try, in as best a way as possible, to serve the needs of the region."

Looking to 2019, 2020 'and beyond'

Klein confirmed that the board will continue to offer French immersion at the three schools where it is now offered, and that the program will expand into Grade 4 at St. Anne and Sir Edgar Bauer and Grade 3 at Our Lady of Fatima in September 2018.

"Beyond that, however, we need to begin to think about the possibilities that lie ahead for 2019 and 2020 and beyond in terms of ... where else we would house French immersion," he said.

Klein said two challenges to expansion will be the availability of space and the ability to find qualified teachers. 

Like other boards in southern Ontario, he said Catholic schools in the region have recently seen an increase in enrolment, which means space is tight.

They also have had trouble finding teachers who are qualified to teach French and "who also want to teach French."

The board's review committee wants to speak with teachers, principals and parents in the coming months, although Klein did not have a timeline for those consultations.