French Immersion enrollment swells, forces school board to use Central Senior

By Roderick Benns

French Immersion enrollment swells, forces school board to use Central Senior

Overcrowding at Leslie Frost Public School in Lindsay – the only public system school in all of Kawartha Lakes that had offered French Immersion – has forced the school board to send its Grade 7-8 French Immersion students elsewhere this fall.

The decision was made public for the first time May 22 by Trillium Lakelands District School Board. Superintendent of Education Katherine MacIver says the decision will affect about 67 students in Grades 7 and 8 who otherwise would have gone to Leslie Frost.

TLDSB Superintendent Katherine MacIver.

Leslie Frost has 532 students enrolled, with more than 330 of those students in French Immersion.

Central Senior Public School, at Kent and Albert Streets, has been the default middle-grades school, taking in Grade 7 and 8 students from across Lindsay. Now, Grades 7 and 8 French Immersion students will be added, since they have the space, according to MacIver.

“Central has the appropriate facilities, it’s nicely located, and it’s not that far from Leslie Frost,” says MacIver.

Central also has a good number of students who graduate and then go on to I.E. Weldon Secondary School, too, she says, the only high school for French Immersion in Kawartha Lakes.

“This allows for good integration into the high school’s French Immersion program,” she says.

As for Leslie Frost, it wasn’t as simple as adding new portables to accommodate the swelling ranks of French Immersion students, MacIver told The Lindsay Advocate. That’s because concerns like fire access and the fact that it would take up more outdoor space, among other things, came into play.

Leslie Frost already has many portables, including one that is used as a school gym because the size of the actual gym inside the school is insufficient to meet student needs.

A public meeting held earlier this week to share the news was lively, by all accounts, and MacIver admits that “a lot of concerns were raised about the communication of this news and how quickly the decision had to be made.”

‘Why was the decision made so quickly?’ is one of many questions on the board’s website in a Frequently Asked Questions section for parents about this decision. The board’s response:

“Typically a decision of this nature would be made much earlier in the school year. However, due to an unexpected increase in enrollment, the number of classrooms required, the limited space for any additional portables on the (school) property, Ministry of Education class size maximums, and the already very crowded conditions of the school, it was decided that a grade placement change could not be delayed to the next school year. Senior administrators had to decide between the school losing space for special education and intervention programs or moving some students to another location.”

At Leslie Frost, it was a dominantly French Immersion school. When asked how that culture will be impacted by sending two grades of French Immersion students to a dominantly English school, MacIver says the French students will end up making a large percentage of the school.

“Twenty-three per cent of the Central Senior community will be French Immersion,” she says. “Ensuring the French culture is honoured and celebrated is important.”

In the FAQs provided by the board, the board also notes that “all French Immersion classrooms will be assigned in one area of the building so that French language culture can be promoted and celebrated.”

The board notes that Central Senior School has an excellent music program and a wide variety of clubs, teams and events to participate in.

According to CTV News, the number of students enrolled in French immersion programs has jumped by 65,000 in five years all across Canada, with French teachers in high demand.

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