Parents want answers to French immersion impasse
AMHERST - The growing popularity of French immersion at Spring Street Academy has created a serious logjam of students trying to find their way into the popular course.
Last night 80 concerned parents converged on the school cafeteria to try to break that logjam
Scott Milner, CCRSB Family of Schools Supervisor, co-ordinated the event trying to find a way out of the impasse.
To get the issued flowing in the right direction he laid five options on the table, some of which were rejected out of hand and others that were given a sympathetic ear.
Those five options were: Maintain the status quo. "You can do that, you can keep things the same, but we have serious over-crowding issues at SSA that are only going to get worse," Milner said.
Right now there are 42 applications for French immersion but only enough space for 28 students.
Further aggravating the problem is the projected growth of the general student body at the School.
"We're supposed to have 450 students here but, right now, we have 533 kids," Milner said. "Our projections show that next year we'll have 556 in and 559 in 2009."
The crowding has forced students into classes on the gymnasium stage, in a converted learning centre and into converted offices and seminar rooms.
"We just don't have any more space," Milner said.
The idea of setting up portable classrooms in the schools playground was rejected out of hand by Milner. "The site SSA was built on was half the size of what is required for this size of a building."
Another option on the table was to move SSA French immersion, grades 4, 5 and 6, to Cumberland North Academy with bussing provided for the students.
This scenario would require the building of portable classrooms.
Another scenario involving CNA, minus the portable classrooms, was to have grades 5 and 6 French immersion bussed from SSA to CAN.
Many parents protested that this option would, among other negatives, divide siblings, provide different qualities of education depending on which school the students attended and create chaos at home as parents try to juggle schedules to try to accommodate the new reality.
Milner said these are all difficulties that can, with time and effort, be overcome.
Two other options that didn't receive as sympathetic an ear were to move SSA French immersion, grades 5 and 6, to either West Highlands or to E.B. Chandler.
Some parents protested the health issues at West Highlands while the need to build portable classrooms for the students at E.B. Chandler isn't the type of French Immersion learning many parents envision for their children when they scuttle them off to school in the morning.
The parents were presented with a paper highlighting the five options plus, at the bottom of the page, asked to write, "Comments, ideas and suggestions.
Despite much dissaproval of the five different scenarios, some parents said it was a step out of the confusion.
One concerned parent who has three kids in French immersion and another one coming said, "There's no sense in beating a dead horse. The bottom line is we have five scenarios. If there's another one we should come up with that, but nobody's going to be happy with the options. This isn't what we want, because we want our kids coming here. My kids can walk to school so I want them coming here, but that's not a scenario. So I just hope we can work with these options and move ahead. We can't go back, let's move forward."
The deadline to submit comments to Scott Milner is Friday, Feb. 29.
All comments will be looked at in preparation for a school board meeting in early March.