Two parents on the Coast want to see a French immersion program started locally, and they’re looking for other like-minded parents to join their cause.
Kirsten Rawkins and Marci Beacham Fuller are new additions to the Coast who both thought their infants would benefit from French immersion classes once enrolled in School District No. 46 (SD46).
“It’s something I assumed we’d always have access to, so I was surprised when I found out the Coast didn’t have a French immersion program,” Beacham Fuller said.
Rawkins was also surprised at the discovery, and the pair started looking into how to start a program here late last year.
In November they held an information meeting and 16 parents came, although many more expressed interest.
“The meeting was a first step for us,” Rawkins said. “Our next step is to contact the people who were at the meeting and those who expressed interest to set up a formal parents’ group and hopefully start a chapter of Canadian Parents for French (CPF) as a way to support the whole project.”
CPF is a parent-led non-profit organization that has worked for more than 30 years to provide French-language educational, social, cultural and sporting activities for youth.
“It was recommended that we start a chapter just so they could support us more with our initiative and so they could be present when we meet with the school board to present our ideas. And we can also get funding through CPF if we’re a chapter, which would be not only to set up a French immersion program, but it would be to help support any other French education programming initiatives on the Coast,” Rawkins said.
There is currently a separate French school on the Coast, Ecole du Pacifique, but it serves only the Francophone population. If you don’t have French heritage, you can’t enrol.
The French immersion program Rawkins and Beacham Fuller are looking into would serve students in SD46 who are interested in learning most or all of their programs in French, regardless of their background.
Although it would ultimately be SD46 providing the programming, it will take a demonstrated interest from the community to get the board to investigate the idea.
“If there’s very little interest in a program then we wouldn’t invest the time in it. It wouldn’t be reasonable,” superintendent of schools Patrick Bocking said. “Developing a new program takes an awful lot of staff time and focus from other things just because you can’t do everything. So there has to be a need and an interest in the community for any program to happen.”
For that reason Rawkins and Beacham Fuller want to assess the appetite for a French immersion program on the Coast and they ask anyone interested to contact them either through their website at www.coastparentsforfrench.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call Rawkins at 778-462-2138.