Peel Region French immersion faces enrolment pressure

Some parents in Peel Region may no longer be able to send their kids to French immersion schools due to rising demand for enrolment.

Board to vote on lottery system

High demand is putting pressure on Peel Region's French immersion program. 2:42

Some parents in Peel Region may no longer be able to send their kids to French immersion schools.

Peel Region schools are considering downsizing programs, capping the number of students admitted and introducing a lottery system to decide who can attend. The school board will hold a vote on the plan on Tuesday evening.

The Goyal family had hoped to enroll both their boys in French immersion. Instead, the brothers may have to attend different schools if the board decides to go with a lottery system.

"It's really quite upsetting," mother Sapna Butany-Goyal told CBC News on Tuesday. "I am now in a position where I might have to explain to one of my children why he's not entitled to the same opportunity afforded to his brother. I have to explain to my kids why they don't get to go to the same school."

Growing enrolment, but fewer teachers

The school board says a growing demand for French immersion combined with a lack of qualified French teachers is forcing them to consider a lottery system.

"We have been finding it very, very challenging to attract and retain the number of teachers that we need," said Peel superintendent Shirley Ann Teal.

But according to the Ontario College of Teachers, nearly a quarter of qualified French teachers are unemployed and a French language advocacy group says the school board needs to find better ways to meet the demand.

"If you have such a successful program you should be doing everything you can to enhance it, to support it and meet the demands of the community," said Betty Gormley of the group Canadian Parents for French.  

In 2001 less than 10 per cent of Grade 1 students in Peel were enrolled in French immersion. This year, that number has more than doubled to 25 per cent. 

The board is also looking at reducing the amount of hours taught in French.

The proposed changes have some families considering pulling their sons out of French immersion.

"It’s going to lead us I think to reconsider whether French immersion is the right option for our family," said Butany-Goyal. "As much as we are fans of the program, as strongly as we believe in it, I have to put my children first.