Parents of two schools worried about French immersion changes

Possible changes could impact Mission Central and Christine Morrison elementaries in Mission

  • Oct. 25, 2015 5:00 a.m.

Mission Central elementary parents and residents took part in a meeting at the school earlier this month.

by Frank Bucholtz, Mission Record

Parents of students at Mission Central and Christine Morrison elementaries are concerned about possible changes to the French immersion program that call for the early program to use just one school next year.

Several attended Tuesday’s board of education meeting to express their concerns. The board is scheduled to make a decision on which school will host the program next year, at its Nov. 17 meeting.

Enrolment for the program, which sees students start French immersion in kindergarten, has been dropping at Mission Central since the board removed boundaries for students in the program. No matter which school is chosen, it will have a major impact on both French immersion and other students at both schools.

Meanwhile, parents at both schools are working proactively on a number of projects to improve many external factors through a new steering committee known as Neighbourhood School Champions. Spokesperson Brenna Maag said the parents realized that any change made at one school will have an impact on other schools, and felt there was plenty they could do while the board is gathering information in preparation for making a decision.

The group has put together a Facebook page which has attracted a lot of interest. It can be found at facebook.com/groups/school.champions/.

It says that schools that are safe, inclusive, diverse and valued in the community attract more students, which allow them to offer more programs. That’s what they are working towards.

In late August, at the time of two earthquakes and a massive windstorm, the group organized a cleanup of the adjacent forested area, hauling out a half tonne of garbage. It has since organized a sidewalk chalk event on the stairs adjacent to the school, and is planning a mural there as well.

Other steps included a neighbourhood meeting on Oct. 6, which allowed about 80 members of the community to share ideas about making the area safer and more attractive, not just for students and parents, but also for people in the neighbourhood.

“We don’t really want to wait (for the board decision),” said Maag. “We want to work together and help work on some of the problems.”

She said the issues of safety and perceptions based on safety needed to be addressed.

In addition to the projects the committee has already undertaken, it plans to create walking trails in the forest, so that more people will be in the area during the day. It also is working towards a community garden on property adjacent to the school, owned by the school district and District of Mission. It wants to also promote more community use of the school building.

It has received lots of support from a variety of local groups and agencies, and from the school district.

Maag said the actions of the committee are planned to benefit both school communities and make them viable for many years to come. She noted that Mission Central is the only school south of Seventh Avenue and it needs to have a healthy population of students. Its location is critical for many nearby families, she added.

Meanwhile, Maag is urging parents from both schools to submit letters and emails to trustees and administrators soon, as a report to the board on the French immersion issue is being prepared.

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