MLA John Rustad showed his support for the French Immersion program in Burns Lake and approached the board to find a way to keep the program, with no success.
“I had a meeting with the school district, and we talked it over. I explored with them the option of whether or not there could be a distance-education type of program however there just isn’t a provision in the province for this and with the number of students, this wouldn’t have been possible,” said Rustad.
The French Immersion program at William Konkin Elementary school in Burns Lake was deemed unsustainable and the board passed a motion to discontinue the program at the end of the current school year, last month.
The decision came on the heels of a report regarding the French Immersion programs’ review in School District 91 (SD91) that was released last year by the Board of Education of the school district. This review was submitted to the board after in-person interviews with parents, teachers, students and the union to determine the sustainability of having french immersion programs in the schools in the school district.
There had however been a lot of back and forth over the program, with parents and the school district under the leadership of Beth Berlin and Nikki Shumka were advocating strongly to keep the program.
“It is just so heartbreaking. There already isn’t any enrichment offered in the school such as music, drama, etc. On top of that, losing a program that has been around for 20 years and has helped so many students is just sad,” Shumka had told Lakes District News after the board announced its decision.
Shumka and Berlin had presented their findings, reviews, testimonials of former French Immersion students and had even managed to enroll 14 students for the Kindergarten class.
MLA Rustad had remarked that this was a good-sized cohort for the region and he was surprised that the program was cut.
“But there isn’t anything else that can be done unfortunately. I wish there was another option that could be considered but the school district does have the authority to make those decisions,” he said.
One option that the French Immersion parents are free to opt for is the appeals process as outlined by the province. According to the appeals process, the School Act provides for two levels of appeal for students and their parents, the first is to go through the Board of Education. First step is to have an informal dispute resolution process. If that process doesn’t resolve the conflict, a formal appeal to the school district would need to be made after which the school district will be required to have a hearing process.
If all of this fails, an appeal to a Superintendent can be made. The process for these appeals can be found on the government website under Kindergarten to Grade 12 support.