Kamloops-Thompson School is looking at creating additional French immersion seats but won’t be able to accommodate demand in time for this year’s kindergarten intake.
Lower Mainland school districts have seen increased demand for French immersion, but the trend hadn’t affected Kamloops until this year, said district superintendent Karl deBruijn.
More than 20 parents and grandparents lined up outside Lloyd George elementary overnight Sunday hoping to register kids for a limited number of seats. Some parents are going to be disappointed this year, deBruijn acknowledged.
“It’s a long time to wait outside, but I’m not sure what the options are,” he said.
Lloyd George has always been tight in terms of accommodating French immersion numbers but last year’s kindergarten intake didn’t fill the capacity of 57. South Sa-Hali elementary has capacity for another 52 French immersion seats.
The district used to offer French immersion at seven schools in total, but then demand dropped along with the overall enrolment decline in the district.
“French immersion was going down at the a rate similar to the enrolment decline. It was proportional.”
When schools were consolidated five years ago in response to the enrolment drop, there were about 800 French immersion seats districtwide. Now they’re back up to 1,200.
“It’s a popular trend and it’s not just here.”
Part of the challenge in creating new spaces is finding the French-language teaching staff. There would also be increased administrative costs, an added difficulty due to the current budget requirement — mandated by the provincial government — to come up with $1.4 million in administration reductions
“We do have a plan on the drawing board to open more seats in French immersion.”
The district is in the initial stages of formulating its 2016-2017 budget with declining enrolment a major factor. While the decline has slowed, there are still 200 fewer students this year, meaning a significant drop in per-pupil funding from the province.