Kitchener-Waterloo

French immersion 2017 enrollment to be capped in Guelph area

The Upper Grand District School Board has had to review how it delivers French immersion due to the popularity of the program. "There’s a huge thirst for French immersion," trustee Susan Moziar says.

'There’s a huge thirst for French immersion,' UGDSB trustee Susan Mozair says

Trustees with the Upper Grand District School Board have voted in favour of 19 recommendations from a committee reviewing how French is taught in schools. Those recommendations include capping enrollment in French immersion. (Jean-Christophe/AFP/Getty Images)

Changes made to the way the Upper Grand District School Board will handle increasing enrollment in French immersion may not be perfect, but it's a start, one Guelph trustee says.

"I appreciate that there's a finite amount of room at a school to accommodate everybody that wants to enrol their child in French immersion," Guelph trustee Susan Moziar said Wednesday after trustees approved 19 recommendations made by a committee reviewing French teaching in its schools Tuesday night.

"I think we've made some progress," she said. "I think that in these recommendations, there's a lot of things that we still have to work out and I know myself, I have a lot of questions as to how is this going to work?"

Enrollment cap in Sept. 2017

Starting in September 2017, parents who want their children to go into French immersion in Guelph, Wellington County and Dufferin County schools will only be able to do so when the child starts junior kindergarten.

There will be enrolment caps and those will be based on school capacity and enrolment trends, the recommendations said.

Parents eager to have their children in French immersion will need to apply within a certain timeframe. Applications received after the deadline would still be considered, but it would depend on whether there was space in the classroom. The students may be placed on a wait list or they could be offered a spot at another nearby school, particularly in Guelph.

These moves are not unlike what other boards have done, Moziar said.

Siblings of children already enrolled in French immersion would be given priority access.

'Huge thirst for French immersion'

Moziar said they have regularly heard from parents concerned about the idea of capping enrollment. Stories about parents lining up outside board offices in Vancouver had some parents worried the same could happen here.

"There's a huge thirst for French immersion," Moziar said.

And, she said, the uptake of French immersion is happening in growing areas of the city. The board is opening a new French immersion school in Guelph's east end. Construction for the newly named École Guelph Lake Public School is ongoing at the Couling Crescent site, and the school may open in September.

"That's what we're hearing, 'I moved into this area because there's a French immersion school and I wanted my child to be enrolled,'" Moziar said.

She added businesses in North Wellington told the board they wanted French immersion in their schools because it attracts workers to the area.

"I don't think we really realized that before," she said.

Application system to be determined

The recommendations also suggested ways the board's human resources department should go about recruiting staff for French immersion and also said staff should regularly monitor enrollment and report back to the board.

As for the exact process of how parents will apply to have their child go into the program, Moziar said that has yet to be determined.

"How are parents going to apply for this? We have to find out how that's going to unfold," she said. "There's a lot of unanswered questions."

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