French immersion surge could force changes at Winnipeg schools

More children enrolling in French immersion in Winnipeg's Louis Riel School Division could mean a change in schools for some families.
The Louis Riel School Division is trying to ease pressure on Collège Béliveau, where French Immersion enrolment has surged. (CBC)

More children enrolling in French immersion in Winnipeg's Louis Riel School Division could mean a change in schools for some families.

About 100 people attended a meeting Monday night at Ecole Provencher in the St. Boniface neighbourhood.

The division's assistant superintendent Christian Michalik said some changes to the grade configurations are being considered at two elementary schools —​ Ecole Provencher and Ecole Henri-Bergeron — to address capacity issues at Collège Béliveau, a Grade 7 to 12 French immersion school.

About 100 people attended a meeting Monday night at Ecole Provencher in the St. Boniface neighbourhood. (CBC)
Instead of two elementary schools, either Provencher or Henri-Bergeron would become an early years school, while the other would turn into a middle school for students from Grade 4 to 8.

“What the change would mean is kids right now that are in Grade 6, that normally would move on in Grade 7 to Collège Béliveau would stay put in one of the two schools — the one chosen to be the middle school for Grade 7 and Grade 8 the following year,” Michalik said.

Mimi Brown, whose son is in Grade 3 at Ecole Provencher, worries how changing schools could affect her son getting to and from daycare.

“They don't have the staffing to be able to walk that extra two blocks, especially if it's 30-something below outside," she said. "That's not even what's healthy for the kids. If they can't go outside for recess, they shouldn't be walking 20 minutes to daycare.”

Another meeting on the issue will be held for parents at Henri- Bergeron School Tuesday night.

School swap eyed in Fort Rouge

Similarly, in the Winnipeg School Division, the popularity of French instruction has raised the possibility of a full school swap.

An emergency meeting was held at the end of January to talk about overcrowding at Ecole LaVerendrye, an elementary school in Fort Rouge. The division is considering a swap that would see students from that school shift start attending classes at nearby Earl Grey School, and vice versa.

LaVerendrye's growing student population has created an overcrowding issue, which has resulted in a portable classroom being built on the playground, the music room being turned into a classroom (and music classes being held in the library), and a heritage classroom being moved to another school altogether.

Meanwhile, Earl Grey currently has space that is vacant and not in use.


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