No guarantee for French immersion for WRDSB remote students this fall

One New Hamburg mother says it's unfair the Waterloo Region District School Board is unclear on whether it will offer remote learning for French immersion students this fall. Melissa Bourque said sending her daughter to in-person classes is not an option for their family.

'I find it so unfair,' says New Hamburg mother of 2

Melissa Bourque in New Hamburg says sending her daughter to in-person classes this fall is not an option for their family if COVID-19 is still a threat. She's concerned her 8-year-old daughter will fall behind if the Waterloo Region District School Board doesn't offer French immersion for remote learners. (Melissa Bourque)

A New Hamburg mom says she's concerned about her 8-year-old daughter's education because there is no guarantee students who opt to learn remotely this fall will be able to access Waterloo Region District School Board's (WRDSB) French immersion program.

"I find it so unfair," Melissa Bourque, a mom two who also works as an interior designer, told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

Bourque, like all parents with students in the public school board, had to make a decision on whether her daughter would be in class or learning remotely this fall by Monday afternoon. The decision parents made was for the entire school year.

On it's website, the school board said it was unable to guarantee French immersion in its elementary remote learning program for the 2021-22 school year. 

"If parents request remote learning and find out that French immersion is not offered, their child would still be in the remote learning program and would engage in core French," WRDSB said.

For Bourque, sending her daughter to in-person classes is not an option because they have a family member at home who would be at a high risk if they were exposed to COVID-19.

"It could be fatal for them, so we are have just been staying away from everybody," she said.

"I'm hoping with the vaccinations things will simmer down a little bit and it'll be fine, but I can't make that decision right now. I can only make my decision for September knowing what I know now, and what I know now is that it's not safe."

Bourque said her daughter has been learning from home since the start of the pandemic.

"Health has to come first in our opinion. They've tied my hands. I really can't make any other decisions right now," she said.

Fear of falling behind

The WRDSB said in an email to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo that it has not yet made a decision regarding their ability to offer remote learning for French immersion students for next year.

"We are currently collecting the student enrolment data and will then subsequently determine our staffing requirements given the limited availability of our qualified French teachers," the board said.

"If we are not able to offer French immersion programming remotely to students, those students will be placed in the English remote class."

Bourque said she's worried her daughter will fall behind if she misses an entire school year of the French immersion program.

"The best I can hope for is some kind of tutoring system that doesn't cost a fortune just to keep it fresh in her mind and hopefully she can catch up," she said.

"If we plan for a tutor ... it's $30 to $50 per lesson and if you can afford that, you're at an advantage to the people who can't afford tutoring."

WRDSB said if students who opt to learn remotely cannot get into French immersion this fall, they will be able to continue with French immersion in the 2022-23 school year.

The board said staff would support the student in addressing any potential learning gaps.


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