Halton Catholic board saves French immersion program

A French immersion program at one GTA school board was saved at a meeting Tuesday night. The program at the Halton Catholic District School Board was threatened by a "French teacher staffing crisis."

The program is threatened by a shortage of qualified French teachers 'across the province of Ontario'

French Language Services Commissioner Francois Boileau said if nothing is done to address the issue, Ontario's francophone demographic may decrease to the point where it becomes insignificant. (Canadian Parents for French)

A popular French immersion program at one GTA school board was saved at a meeting Tuesday night, despite a "French teacher staffing crisis." 

Trustees at the the Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB)  voted to make their early French immersion program permanent and extend it to Grade 12. 

The program launched as a pilot in 2013, offering it in four different schools starting in Grade 1.

Last month, a committee made up of parents, teachers, principals and trustees released a report stating that "there is a French teacher staffing crisis across the province of Ontario" and it's even more challenging to find Catholic French teachers.

Marcio Campos, who has one child in Halton's program and another currently in kindergarten, welcomed the boards' decision Tuesday evening.

"It's a relief that the trustees have listened to the concerns of the community and give our kids the opportunities they deserve," said Campos, who was brought up in Brazil and learned English as a second language.

Betty Gormley, executive director of Canadian Parents for French in Ontario, an advocacy organization, says she has faith that the the province can come up with strategies to solve the staffing issues. 

"Tonight was a victory for parents and kids who want to learn both of Canada's official languages and achieve bilingualism in the research-based program that we know will deliver the best possible outcome," Gormley said. 

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter knows that the demand for French teachers is high and says the ministry is working on attracting them to province. She says some of the incentives include making funds available for existing teachers to upgrade their qualifications to teach French.  

"We're working together with the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration for people with teacher qualifications that have come to Ontario and Canada to have a way into the teaching profession," said Hunter on Tuesday.

The HCDSB isn't the only board that's struggled with high demand but low resources.

The Waterloo region is grappling with attracting French teachers and so is the province of British Columbia.