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Saanich mom says sudden cut to French immersion program disrupts planning for family’s education

New enrolment being cut off for Cedar Hill Middle School’s late French immersion program
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Cedar Hill Middle School in Saanich will no longer enrol new late French immersion students. (Black Press Media file photo)

The lack of communication surrounding cuts to Cedar Hill Middle School’s French immersion program has left parents scrambling in their family education planning, according to one mother.

The Greater Victoria School District, currently facing a budget deficit of $7 million, trimmed $115,000 by cutting new enrolment to the late French immersion program from Cedar Hill school as of the 2022-23 school year.

Students who completed elementary-level French immersion enrolling in Cedar Hill Middle School will have to choose between continuing their studies in English or through French immersion spots at Arbutus, Landsdowne, Shoreline or Central middle schools.

Jasmine Xing, who chose her Saanich home in 2007 so her three children could attend Cedar Hill’s late French immersion program, said the school district’s decision to cut the program was made suddenly. No direct consultation was made with the program’s 21 parents or the French Parent Advisory Council, she said.

The cut of Cedar Hill’s late French immersion program was discussed during SD61’s public budget consultation process, which began last fall, SD61 communications manager Lisa McPhail said in an email. Cedar Hill Middle School’s late French immersion is historically one of the least subscribed to in the school district, she said, and demand is not expected to increase with the school’s anticipated increased enrolment.

“We understand the decision is challenging for families but we are currently working with families to provide continuity in programming at nearby schools,” said McPhail.

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Xing said that when a school decides to cut a program, they need to consult with families and their children so that they can plan years in advance. Her two oldest children, in the eighth and sixth grade, will be able to continue their late French immersion programming at Cedar Hill. Her youngest currently in the third grade, however, will have to choose between a different education from her older siblings at Cedar Hill or continuing French immersion at a new school.

“Neither is an ideal choice for us,” Xing said. “I’m fighting for my youngest because I want her to have the teachers that my older two kids had, and have her friends. If she goes to a brand new school, she doesn’t have that community feel anymore. This totally came as a shock to all of us.”

Cedar Hill’s late French immersion program had been a great benefit to Xing’s eldest children. “They have a really good method to have English-speaking kids immersed in a new language environment,” she said. After nearly one school year of late French immersion, Xing’s middle child is reading French, reciting nearly fluently and engaging in simple conversation, she said.

SD61 has seen several cuts to its music, drama and counselling programs as a result of its deficit over the past year.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated from its original version for clarity.


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