Final decision on the WKE FI program tabled due to the pandemic

The school board for School District 91 (SD91) in a board meeting held on May 11, unanimously voted for tabling any decisions on the William Konkin Elementary (WKE) school’s French Immersion (FI) program until Spring 2021. The decision comes after reviewing the recommendations made by a report on SD91’s FI programs’ sustainability and the public feedback that took place after the report was released.

“The Board recognizes the context and difficulty of transitioning any programming change amidst managing operation of schools amidst the COVID situation and appreciates the thoughtful feedback and submissions over the past few weeks,” stated the school district in a press release issued by SD91, as a reason behind this decision.

Parents of the FI program kids have received the news with mixed reactions to it.

Crystal Fisher, a parent to a Grade 5 student at WKE was pleased by the board’s acceptance of the superintendent’s recommendation, “I believe it was the only appropriate decision to make considering the lack of stakeholder consultation and involvement in the review process.” Earlier, Fisher had said that if the program was axed, she would not send her son to WKE and instead would home-school him before putting him in mainstream English.

Another parent, Lineo Mapetla, was not so optimistic about the outcome as, to her, it felt more like a circumstance-based decision and not a final decision. “I would’ve loved for it to be a clearer decision.

However, the circumstances are such that I think it is a priority for them that the school continues and I can understand how this is not a priority, and how they can push this to the back-burner just to ensure that children’s schooling continues for now,” she said. Mapetla is however hopeful that whenever the board revisits the issue again, they would include more involvement and dialogue with the parents.

In a presentation that Elizabeth Berlin, the President of the Burns Lake CPF chapter and a FI program parent gave after the announcement at the board meeting, she reiterated the various reasons for the board to continue supporting the program as well as slammed the report that recommended shutting it down.

Berlin also put forth a series of questions and solutions to ensure that the FI program remains sustainable in the future. One recommendation she made was to reinstate the FI program for Kindergarten and urged parents to consider the FI program for their kids for Kindergarten and Grade 1 for September 2020.

She also suggested that SD91 work with the FI program parents to promote the program and requested the school district to revisit and review their catchment policy. “Manu Madhok, the superintendent told the FI parents that an additional 40 students would be needed for the program to be sustainable. He also gave us rough numbers for Village of Burns Lake students attending Francois Lake Elementary and Decker Lake Elementary of around 80 students; if catchment were enforced and even half of these chose French Immersion, we would have a sustainable program,” she said.

Berlin also inquired whether the FI program could be moved to Decker Lake Elementary or Francois Lake Elementary if SD91 ultimately ends up believing that the program is bad for WKE.

The FI program will continue through next year’s Spring, when the board is set to revisit the issue and evaluate whether to continue or permanently discontinue the FI program from WKE.

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