Despite resistance from English stream parents, Ecole John Stubbs Memorial school will be a purely French immersion elementary and middle school starting in 2015.
The move, unanimously passed by the Sooke School District board on Tuesday, is part of an overall restructuring in the district, sparked by the building of two new high schools on the West Shore, both of which are slated to open in September 2015.
“Of course, the board knows these are tough decisions,” said board chair Wendy Hobbs.
Parents of students in John Stubbs’ English program have voiced concerns over having to uproot their children from one school and send them to another, Hobbs acknowledged. They also worry the school will lose its community feel without non-French immersion students, she added.
French immersion students far outnumber English track students at John Stubbs, especially in Kindergarten, where the ratio is 77 to 14. In Grades 1 to 5, there are 248 French-track students and 135 in English.
The board’s decision to make the school fully French immersion also comes from seeing an overall increase in the number of French immersion students in the district.
“The decisions we’re making are for the whole district, on a whole from K to 12,” Hobbs said.
“We have to move forward and provide quality education for our students, and we know that along the road sometimes people aren’t happy with the decisions that we make.”
John Stubbs parent advisory council president Kirsten Quealey admitted the issue has been divisive among parents at the school.
“It’s good that there’s a decision that has now come down so that we can move forward,” she said. “One of our main goals as a PAC is to try to stick together as a community.”
The goal moving forward, she added, is to help families and work with other PACs to make for a smooth transition. How this one change will affect busing, with more students travelling to schools outside their catchment zone, has not yet been determined.
With the district moving to a model where elementary schools are K-5, middle schools Grades 6 through 8 and secondaries Grade 9 to 12, there will be many changes to busing around the West Shore.
With the plan for John Stubbs to offer French immersion from K-8, students in the program can stay at one school until moving up to Belmont, home of the district’s secondary school French immersion. Under the new configuration, Millstream elementary will continue to host both French immersion and English programs for K-5.
English students at John Stubbs will have a choice to continue their studies at Crystal View, Colwood or Savory elementaries. Middle school English students can attend either Dunsmuir or Spencer middle schools.
“What we’re trying to stress to people is that we will be working with families moving forward,” Hobbs said.
A transition committee will be formed to guide parents through the changes, as well as the transition to the two new high schools.