No fi­nal de­ci­sion

The Southern Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

“To think that my chil­dren might be af­forded less op­por­tu­ni­ties than I was my­self 30 years ago is beyond ridicu­lous and frus­trat­ing to say the least.”

Par­ents with chil­dren just en­ter­ing the school sys­tem are also ques­tion­ing the de­ci­sion.

Jessica Har­ris ex­plained she had plans to en­roll her son in the pro­gram.

“I have al­ways known that when I had chil­dren I wanted to put them in French im­mer­sion. It’s part of the rea­son we live in Marys­town.

“I see the ben­e­fits of be­ing bilin­gual, be­cause I am not. I want my chil­dren to have the op­por­tu­nity to be flu­ent in both of Canada’s na­tional lan­guages.”

Char­lene Evans, chair of the lo­cal chap­ter of the Cana­dian Par­ents for French, said NLESD’S de­ci­sion not to of­fer the im­mer­sion pro­gram to stu­dents en­ter­ing the Kinder­garten pro­gram came as a sur­prise.

“I found out through the com­mu­nity that it had hap­pened,” she ex­plained. “We had no con­sul­ta­tion.”

Evans wishes there had been more time to de­bate the de­ci­sion, “that we had been in­formed, so that maybe we could do more ad­vo­cacy.”

She added with 10 out of 38 stu­dents en­rolled in the Kinder­garten pro­gram do­ing im­mer­sion, it puts the ra­tio at a sim­i­lar level as in past years.

“We al­ways get around onethird of the stu­dents, that hasn’t changed – it’s just en­roll­ment is down.”

Evans said it was not made clear to her by of­fi­cials how many stu­dents would be needed in the im­mer­sion pro­gram to jus­tify of­fer­ing it.

“My hope was that we would be able to get to­gether with the school district to be able to come up with a so­lu­tion.”

She said the two groups could get to­gether and brain­storm a way to keep the pro­gram.

“We’ve had it on the penin­sula for be­tween 32-33 years – our chil­dren are los­ing out on an ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­nity, and right now out­side (the) larger cen­ters, Marys­town is the only area in ru­ral New­found­land that (that of­fers) early French im­mer­sion, so it’s a big loss to the Burin Penin­sula.”

No con­sul­ta­tion

Con­cerned par­ents have also con­tacted lo­cal area MHA Mark Browne, who is­sued a me­dia re­lease on Wed­nes­day.

“The so-called plan to re­move (early) French Im­mer­sion from Sa­cred Heart Academy fea­tured no con­sul­ta­tion, sur­pris­ing the par­ents, the com­mu­nity and my­self,” Browne said in the re­lease.

“This pro­gram has ex­isted and sur­vived since 1985, giv­ing count­less par­ents the op­por­tu­nity and choice to have their chil­dren im­mersed in French. I, my­self, had the great for­tune of be­ing en­rolled in this pro­gram and know the ben­e­fits first­hand.”

He added Sa­cred Heart Academy’s French im­mer­sion pro­gram ex­isted as a re­sult of ad­vo­cacy and a long-held com­mu­nity be­lief in the ben­e­fits of learn­ing Canada’s sec­ond of­fi­cial lan­guage.

“As this was a de­ci­sion made by the school district, I en­cour­age all those who are con­cerned to con­tact the district and the lo­cal school board trustee.”

Browne said he tried to con­tact NLESD, but to date has not re­ceived a call back.

“The school district owes it to the com­mu­nity to have a rea­son­able con­ver­sa­tion on this is­sue rather than show­ing up to a school coun­cil meet­ing to an­nounce their plan with no con­sul­ta­tion,” said Browne.

No fi­nal de­ci­sion

A re­lease is­sued by Lucy War­ren, as­so­ci­ate di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion – pro­grams and op­er­a­tions (in­terim) for the NLESD states: “At this time, no de­ci­sion has been made with re­spect to the fu­ture of­fer­ing of … EFI, in par­tic­u­lar for the 2018-2019 Kinder­garten class of Sa­cred Heart Academy.

“With that said, at this time en­roll­ment lev­els in the Kinder­garten EFI pro­gram for next year are not high enough to war­rant of­fer­ing of a sus­tain­able class. Early French im­mer­sion is an op­tional pro­gram and en­roll­ment num­bers must be sus­tain­able for a teach­ing unit to be al­lo­cated for a class.”

The re­lease stated a fi­nal de­ci­sion would not be made un­til April, when the staffing process com­mences.

Mean­while, should en­roll­ment in EFI in­crease – if stu­dents cur­rently reg­is­tered for English at Sa­cred Heart de­cide to en­roll in EFI, or if new stu­dents en­rolling at the school choose the pro­gram – “an al­lo­ca­tion may be made for such a class,” War­ren stated.

In re­sponse to the state­ment, Jess Reid asked War­ren, “I would as­sume from your let­ter that the pro­gram is not can­celled, as of yet, and the kids are still con­sid­ered FI en­rolled for the time be­ing?”

She also ex­pressed that un­til a fi­nal de­ci­sion is made, stu­dents cur­rently en­rolled in the EFI Kin­der­start pro­gram should have the op­por­tu­nity to do it.

“If I am wrong and you have de­cided the pro­gram is can­celled, then that would be the only rea­son­ing for not go­ing on as planned,” she wrote.

War­ren said EFI stu­dents would not be at a dis­ad­van­tage should the pro­gram be of­fered when they en­ter Kinder­garten

“Kin­der­start is a transition pro­gram for stu­dents – it’s in­tended to fa­cil­i­tate a smooth transition to school for our four-year-olds,” said War­ren.

“It’s the first con­nec­tion with home and school, it pro­vides the chil­dren an op­por­tu­nity to be­come fa­mil­iar with the Kinder­garten en­vi­ron­ment, it’s their first ex­pe­ri­ences at school and of course it gives ed­u­ca­tors an op­por­tu­nity as well to be­come fa­mil­iar with the chil­dren—and pre­pare to meet their needs based on the ob­ser­va­tions they make.”

She said the pro­gram it­self is not specif­i­cally tar­geted to English or French. “All the chil­dren do the same pro­gram, so in terms of the French im­mer­sion Kinder­garten class for next year, we said there would be a de­ci­sion made in the spring based on the en­roll­ment at that time.”

She added par­ents in­ter­ested in the im­mer­sion pro­gram who would like to en­roll their chil­dren can con­tact her of­fice.

“We don’t want to go with a Kin­der­start as a French im­mer­sion stream, be­cause it’s set­ting up a false ex­pec­ta­tion un­til the de­ci­sion is ac­tu­ally made.”

She said the Kin­der­start pro­gram is not meant to teach the French lan­guage; it is a play-based sys­tem meant to help pro­mote so­cial and mental devel­op­ment.

While War­ren said there is no ex­act num­ber needed to make the French pro­gram vi­able, she said de­clin­ing en­roll­ment at the school does play a role in the pro­grams of­fered.

“Years ago, they would be­tween 65-70 stu­dents, which would con­sti­tute a three-stream school,” she ex­plained. “So gen­er­ally, we need a three-stream school to make a French im­mer­sion pro­gram.”

War­ren said in that case, the school would have 25-30 per cent of its Kinder­garten class en­rolled in the French pro­gram, “and that would have been one class ver­sus two in English, be­cause they had that pop­u­la­tion.

“So what’s oc­cur­ring here is the over­all num­ber of stu­dents en­ter­ing the school is de­creas­ing … and it’s very dif­fi­cult to have a French im­mer­sion stream in a school with a pop­u­la­tion that size.”

Masters said the walk should take ap­prox­i­mately 10-11 hours to com­plete.

Stu­dents at the school have been ask­ing ques­tions about the walk.

“They want to know how I plan to deal with some is­sues; if I face in­jury, or if I face any blis­ters or any­thing along the way,” Masters ex­plained. “I’m go­ing to be pre­pared”

He plans to leave his home at ap­prox­i­mately 3:30 a.m.

The first three hours of the walk will be in the dark, “but I’ll have head lamps and high-vis­i­bil­ity cloth­ing to keep me safe. My cell phone will be with me be­ing fol­lowed on GPS, so hope­fully that’ll be ev­ery­thing I need to make the trip safely.”

Masters says he plans to be back at his post in the school the fol­low­ing day.

“I fully rec­og­nize that I’m go­ing to be a lit­tle bit stiff and sore, but the in­ten­tion cer­tainly, un­less I’m hos­pi­tal­ized, is to be on deck and at work, ready for the day,” he said with a laugh.

Lee Masters

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