Prince Rupert students are just starting the school year, but they’re already breaking records.
In School District 52, a report by Canadian Parents for French – British Columbia and Yukon shows 222 students were enrolled in French immersion last school year. At 11.2 per cent of the students in the district, the number of children learning the language full-time was higher than the 9.5 per cent provincial average in B.C.
“I think it’s great to see the numbers go up. I think a lot of it has to do with the school district. I think they’re very supportive of French immersion,” said Christine Leduc, the president of the Prince Rupert chapter of Canadian Parents for French.
She said accepting all of the students who want to enter the program, not having a lottery system for registration and continuing French immersion through to Grade 12 helps.
“They build classes around the numbers that they have. Nobody is turned away, which is great.”
The principal of Roosevelt Park Elementary School in Prince Rupert, Andrée Michaud, said that since the 2018-2019 school year started on Sept. 4, they don’t have the current enrolment numbers yet.
“Our French immersion program is healthy, and we are still continuing this trend,” Michaud said.
SD52 broke the same record two years ago when 197 students out of the district’s 2,072 students were enrolled in the program. The result was 9.5 per cent of the student body in French immersion — the current provincial average.
“There are various reasons why families make that decision,” Michaud said. “One, they see it as an enrichment program. It’s more challenging. Some families see it as looking forward to the future, that their kids will graduate with a bilingual diploma, therefore it opens more doors for employment for the kids.”
The classes in Roosevelt this year are close to full, but with the success of the French immersion program in SD52 comes its own challenges. Michaud said finding people qualified to be French immersion teachers is starting to be a struggle.
“It’s not only in Prince Rupert, it’s in the entire province that there is a shortage of French immersion teachers,” Michaud said. “We haven’t had to do that yet, but eventually, we may have to limit the amount of entry into the program because we won’t be able to find people to teach the kids.”