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UPDATE: Early French Immersion registration shows no signs of letting up

Plus: summer programs see a relatively strong showing for 2023, and will there be an update regarding Trustee Dee Beattie?

Ecole Qayqayt Elementary School is one of the places where kids in New West can take French Immersion classes.

Prior to Tuesday night’s school board meeting—the first one of the school year—New West Anchor asked New West Schools if there would be any kind of update regarding Trustee Dee Beattie. Earlier this year, Beattie confirmed in a statement to The Anchor she was behind a burner account on X/Twitter that was harassing a number of people in the community.

The Anchor was told there would be some kind of update during Tuesday’s meeting, but did not share whether Beattie had made a decision. The board previously called for Beattie to resign.

A preview of other highlights

When it comes to how New West’s school district is performing on the French immersion front, our city is showing no shortage of interest.

The latest numbers from the district show there were just shy of 1,000 students registered in the program. That means about 13% of the total population is registered—this is above the BC-wide rate of 10%. However, the 13% number is slightly lower than the 2021-2022 rate of 14.7%.

It is worth noting that the district has continued to grow, and class size and composition can also cause an annual change in the aforementioned numbers when making comparisons year-over-year.

“Attrition can be an issue in the French Immersion (FI) program, particularly between middle and secondary school. In some cases, it is because of the student’s perception that it is more difficult to complete the upper-level courses (particularly math and science) in French than it would be in English,” explains a report from the Tuesday, Sept. 26 school board meeting agenda package. “Also, there is a decrease in numbers between Grades 9 and 12 as students decide to leave the FI program because of scheduling conflicts.”

That being said, attrition rates in New West—based on supplied percentages from surrounding school districts—are considered to be somewhere in the middle.

There are still some challenges tied to the program, including how children can gain entry: like the rest of the province, New West Schools follows a sibling priority process. Those who have a sibling already in a program are likely to get into French immersion, which can mean challenges for families with a single child looking to get in.

Typically, there are about 60 spaces open for early immersion at the Kindergarten level in New West annually; the school board says it’s common to receive double that for applications.

On the late immersion front, there are also about 60 open spaces, though New West Schools says the number of applications received are much closer to the amount of open spaces.

Staffing is also considered a challenge, but the report outlines an issue that appears to be unique to New West.

“French Immersion teachers who, due to the small size of the district and the low number of French Immersion classes, are unable to get a teaching assignment in the particular grade or subject area that they want. This forces some to make the difficult decision to either leave the program and start teaching in English, or leave the district entirely because they can get the position that they want in a neighbouring district.”

Summer programs perform relatively well

On the summer programs front, it appears to be another example of a growing school district in New Westminster.

Recently posted numbers by School District 40 show 1,061 kids and teens ranging from Kindergarten to Grade 12 signed up for summer programs.

Summer programs provided by the school district include but are not limited to early French immersion, learning through nature and gardens, foundations of wellness skills, and English First Peoples Literary Studies & Writing 11, with courses taking place over July and August.

Some of the courses allow for full credit.

The biggest jump in terms of registration is in the K-to-7 category, with 494 students signed up this year. This is nearly three times last year’s number of students in the same grade range. Programs in those who are in Grades 11 and 12 saw an increase of 71 students, with a total of 272 participating this year.

The next New West school board meeting will be taking place on Tuesday, Sept. 26 at 7pm. Participants can attend in-person or through Zoom, and the agenda for the meeting is already online.

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