French immersion program close to target 

The French immersion program at Spring Creek Community School is close to meeting its quota of 22 students needed for the program to run next year, with 19 students signed up as of this week and a few other students expected to sign up soon.

The program added a second parent information session back in April, when just 15 students were enrolled. If there weren't enough students by the start of the 2009-2010 school year, the program would be cancelled and likely would not return. Students currently enrolled would be allowed to finish.

"I'm pretty confident that we'll have the program (next year)," said Gerri Galloway, principal at Spring Creek. "We're really just waiting for the last few students to enroll in the program. We did have an additional parent information session, and we did send some mail out to families of children that are in the appropriate age group going into Grade 5 and Grade 6 letting them know the program is here, letting them know that everyone is welcome and that transportation is not a concern because students can come by school bus."

Galloway has also extended an invitation to interested families to take a tour of the school or to take part in an orientation session where current French immersion students discuss their experiences with newcomers and tell them what to expect next year.

The Spring Creek program is spans three years, Grades 5 to 7, but students can also enter in Grade 6.

After years of lobbying for an early French immersion program, Kindergarten to Grade 3, the Sea to Sky School District compromised and awarded a late immersion program to Spring Creek in 2005.

Cathy Jewett, head of the district Parent Advisory Council (D-PAC), helped fight for the program and her daughter was one of the first graduates. "It would be a shame to see it go," she said.

Some parents have suggested contacting the school district to get a five-year approval for the program to take the pressure off recruiting each year. The 2008 program almost did not run, but the late addition of Grade 6 students for a mixed class allowed it to go ahead.

"It's tough for Spring Creek because there is some real fluctuation in school years as far as numbers go," said Jewett. "For instance, next year's graduating class may be the biggest ever, but a year or two down the road it could be the smallest. Another issue is that when there are a lot of boys, it's harder, because fewer boys sign up for French immersion."

The demographic issues also have an economic impact on the school. Schools receive funding based on the number of full time equivalent students registered, and classes with fewer students mean less money for the school. That's why the school district set a quota of 22 students to ensure the program is self-supporting.

For more information on the program, visit 

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