Late entry French immersion (Grade 6) for 2019 will be reconsidered for Cedar Hill middle school, starting with registration on Jan. 28. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

School district reconsiders late French for Cedar Hill, but Central is out

District says space at Central at capacity, while Cedar Hill has room

Despite being cancelled with no notice last week, late entry French immersion (Grade 6) looks to be returning to Cedar Hill middle school, if only for one more year.

Last week Greater Victoria School District announced it had disbanded the late French immersion classes for Central and Cedar Hill middle schools. The news came only two weeks ahead of registration and shocked dozens of parents who had long been planning on enrolling their children in the LFI programs.

In response, dozens of concerned parents showed up to Monday night’s SD61 informational meeting for parents of students interested in late French immersion. A show of hands proved that parents of at least 15 children from feeder schools to Cedar Hill had planned on registering in French immersion, said moms Erin Finlayson and Jasmine Xing, who each have a Grade 5 student at Braefoot elementary.

“There’s no need to cancel a program without warning, and before knowing what the interest is for next year,” Finlayson said. “We emailed a lot of people [at SD61], the trustees, associate superintendents, to ask why. We feel confident at least 20 to 25 students will apply for [LFI] at Cedar Hill.”

RELATED: Parents furious as late French immersion ends at Central Middle School

As a result of the strong interest for Cedar Hill, SD61 has re-opened Grade 6 registration for September 2019 are able to register for late French immersion at Cedar Hill as of Jan. 28. However, the program will only be reinstated based on a high enough level of interest, said a letter from SD61 sent out on Jan. 17.

It will also be the last year offering LFI at Cedar Hill, said McPhail, adding the district reviews its late French immersion programs annually.

“Late French immersion was not offered at Cedar Hill for the 2018-19 school year due to low demand,” said SD61 spokesperson Lisa McPhail.

The same does not go for Central middle school which is at capacity including two portables already on campus.

“Given that Central is already operating at full capacity, there is no option of late French immersion programming due to the lack of space,” McPhail said. “There is physically not enough space to support the program without restricting access to Central’s in-catchment students.”

Districtwide, SD61 is maintaining the same number of seats for the late French immersion program in the 2019-20 school year as this year.

Finlayson and Xing both said there are many parents who were comfortable with their children in the English stream of their catchment school knowing they’d have the opportunity to enrol in late French at middle school.

“A lot of parents were under the assumption [late entry French immersion] was running, and we were only informed on Friday the 11th that the district was not running the program,” said Finlayson, who went to Monday’s meeting.

A similar sentiment exists at South Park elementary in James Bay, where parent Jeremy Caradonna, who was also at Monday night’s meeting, said dozens of parents in the school are of the belief their children (varying from kindergarten to Grade 5) would follow a long tradition of South Park students enrolling in late entry French at Central.

Late French immersion registration is Jan. 28 for Arbutus, Cedar Hill, Lansdowne and Shoreline middle schools.

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