Parents want unity in school

Colin MacLean
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Splitting French immersion students not the solution to overcrowding: parents

Parents want unity in school

Moving French immersion students from Spring Street Academy to another school is not the way to solve the school's overcrowding problem, say parents.
A group of five parents attended a Chignecto-Central regional education services committee meeting last night to voice their concerns about the overflow of students in their school.
They were there representing a larger group of parents who believe moving several classes worth of French students to Cumberland North Academy is only a temporary solution. The problem of overcrowding is not going to go away.
"A lot of parents are discouraged and scared," said presenter Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin.
There has been so much negativity surrounding the program that some parents have threatened to either pull their kids from it or not sign them up all together. Either way it's bad for the strength of the overall program.
We are here tonight to ask the school bored to keep the program together in the same building and to ask they look at other options, she said.
"We don't want to believe it's a done deal but that's the impression we're getting," said parent Debbie Boudreau.
Nothing has been decided for sure yet, but splitting the class remains an option being discussed, said Noel Hurley, superintendent of Chignecto-Central Regional School Board.
"We want to have a long-term solution to the overcrowding problem, but we want to have one that's consistent with educational options."
"We don't want to just take students and put them here and there because we have empty spaces," he said.
When the program started seven years ago, there weren't enough resources for teachers or students. So the school looked to parents to help out. They raised the money that was needed and continue to support the program in any way they can, said parent Ericka Caissie.
"We have made sacrifices and will continue to do so," said Caissie.
The best solution for everybody might be to build a new West Highlands School with a 400 to 425 student capacity. The parents agree, they want to see the immersion program stay together even if it's at a new school, said Hurley.
"That's one encouraging thing about it, they are willing to look at options the same as we are," he said.

Organizations: Street Academy, Cumberland North Academy, Central Regional School Board West Highlands School

Geographic location: Chignecto

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  • EM
    January 18, 2010 - 11:21

    Can we stop beating up the French Immersion Program?! The FIP is not the reason that SSA is overcrowded. The reason SSA is overcrowded is because they built the school too small. If I'm not mistaken and someone can correct me if I'm wrong, 85% of the students in the FIP are from the SSA catchment area. That being said, french or english those students would be going to the school anyway so it would still be overcrowded. Of the 43 primary FI students coming in September, 35 are from the SSA catchment area. Let's stop blaming the FIP for the overcrowding and try to stay focused to find a solution to the problem.

  • AM
    January 18, 2010 - 11:18

    Lets just get rid of the program NOW, honestly if i had kids i would never put them in it as there are enough problems with our education system now. We need to improve the basics of our system, increase literacy, help students do better in math & science. French Immersion is not what Amherst needs.
    a) Our schools are too small, (SSA should have been bigger, they could have since old ARHS was much bigger on that site)
    b) Even in NB it isn't effective as they don't reach appropriate levels

    Let's just redistribute students to where they should be (send those from out of town back to CNA) and concentrate on providing an excellent education where graduates have the skills they need.

  • Barbara
    January 18, 2010 - 11:16

    Silly me thinking Amherst was in Nova Scotia. (They did this in NB, they did that in NB.)

    Let's go through this point by point...

    Buy back St. Charles? The school board has already decided against that option.

    Redistribute the catchment area... according to the school board, there is a hold on all decisions like that, also moving classes from one school to another.

    Cancel the program... and what happens to the children already in it? Can one of you without children enlighten the rest of us on that?

    My children are in French Immersion. They are doing very well in class... in all their classes. Neither one is suffering because they are being taught in French. They can also read in English, and they take part in all the after school activities that they can.

    If they end up at another school, then they end up at another school. I'm not going to take them out of a class they love just because they wouldn't be at SSA any longer.

    What these kids need are people supporting them, regardless of the outcome... NOT people treating them like second class citizens because they are learning in a language besides English.

  • E
    January 18, 2010 - 11:11

    Well AM, in all honesty, that's my opinion too but some parents think it's a viable program so I thought I'd stay with the topic of where to put the Immersion students.

  • Concurn Parent
    January 18, 2010 - 10:49

    Well you fighting over the french emisserion program, not all parents disagreed of haveing a new west Highland School. Your worry about french program were worried about a unsafe school and a health risk . So what more important a french program and a school to over croud. Hum you tell me? Were are are school Board?

  • E
    January 18, 2010 - 10:43

    Well I'll start by saying that NB isn't going to offer early French Immersion any more. I'm not saying that's a right choice, that's a whole other topic, but they are one of Canada's bilingual provinces.

    Reducing the number of students by rezoning isn't going to work simply because there is too many individual classes in the school. While there may be a few less students in the each class, there will still classrooms on the stage, in closets and other unsuitable spots. There are too many classes within the school and no place for them to go.

    I personally know of many students that attend SSA that live outside of Amherst. I'm no exactly sure but wasn't Cumberland North built for those students? They could relocate but there would still be too many classes.

    Yes there are too many students in SSA. And yes it is a beautiful school but something has got to give.

    It makes sense to remove the French Immersion from SSA and put them into it's own school. This doesn't have to be a tramatic event. If started now, there is plenty of time to find and renovate a location to allow the Immersion students to have a more suitable location than being crammed into small areas at SSA.

    Portable classrooms are a horrible idea, remember RB Dickey's?

    West Highland's was slated to be replaced years ago but they residents in that area didn't want a new school, they got what they asked for.

    I don't claim to have all the facts or know all the details but from a practical point of view this is what sounds right.

  • AM
    January 18, 2010 - 10:38

    To Sober Though:
    I have spent a lot of time outside of Amherst, i have been at Acadia University for several years and am not short sighted. Throughout High School and so far through university i have never needed to use french (i did extended French from 7-9) other than on the grade 7 Quebec trip. So please do not make assumptions that those that feel it unimportant are shortsighted and have not left Amherst!!

    The problem I have with the program (other than NB's lack of belief in it now) is that it is impacting those students who are not in immersion and don't want to be. Why should their programing be impacted due to overcrowding to make way for this program. If they did re-draw the boundries for each school then i would expect that some of those in the FIP would no longer be in the school's catchment area so they would be adding to the overcrowding.

    I don't blame the parents of those in the FIP for the overcrowding (or the students) but the school board. SSA was built way to small and they didn't think of the future students. My solutions for the overcrowding are:
    1) Bring in Portable classrooms (not my prefered choice but may happen)
    2) Buy Back St. Charles and move the program there
    3) re-distribute the catchment areas to alleviate the strain on SSA
    4) Move the gr 6 classes to EBC & gr 8 to ARHS to make some room at SSA for the immersions
    5) Elimate the FIP and redistribute students (yes extreme, and would be my choice, but may have to happen)

  • E
    January 18, 2010 - 10:37

    Well Sober just because you are from the Maccan woods ??? (whatever that means...I assume you are insulting ppl in Maccan and I don't know the connection between that and the topic) doesn't mean that ppl here are short sighted. The topic on hand is the overcrowding of a school built to house two schools and a growing immersion program. There is no room in SSA. That's the problem. Period. Whether Immersion is a viable program or noit the school is overcrowded. Immersion being a separate program should go elsewhere.

    On the topic of whether or not immersion is viable, lets look at our bilingual neighbor. NB has scrapped early immersion.

  • Sober Thought
    January 18, 2010 - 10:35

    Those that think French Imersion is not important are pretty short sighted, and obviously have spent little time out of Amherst or the Maccan woods.

    I have had to miss out on so many opportunities over the years due to my limited french, if there is one regret I have in my life, it is not taking the time to learn it. I have worked in places where others make $2-$5 more an hour because they are bilingual. My kids will not miss out on such opportunities just because I or some short sighted individual do not see the importance.

  • E
    January 18, 2010 - 10:29

    Buy back St. Charles? Not really an option but might work.

    Redistribute the catchment area? to where?

    Cancel the program? Well the only fair way to do this would be to stop enrolling new stundents into the immersion program and let the existing students finish what they started.

    I'm sure the students in the program are doing very well and are very bright but that does not solve the over-crowding problem.

    Moving the whole program to another location would be the best option.

    All children need 100% support in whatever they decide to do and no decent person would treat a child as second rate. This still does not solve the over-crowding problem.