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French immersion program perfectly full

Okanagan Skaha School District received 120 applications for the fall intake of the program.

They’re still months away from starting, but local students interested in the late French immersion program are already showing promise in mathematics.

When the deadline for registration passed at noon Monday, staff at the Okanagan Skaha School District had received 120 applications for the fall intake of the program, enough to fill precisely four 30-student classes to capacity.

“So the good news is everybody’s going to be accommodated by the program,” superintendent Wendy Hyer told the school board at its meeting Monday.

The difficulty that remains is deciding where to place the classes.

Hyer said 75 of those who applied to the program, which begins in Grade 6, expressed an interest in attending at KVR Middle School in Penticton, while the other 45 preferred Summerland Middle School. If the numbers hold, that could potentially leave 15 students from either community travelling to classes out of town.

She recommended trustees immediately commit to creating two sections in Penticton and one in Summerland, then wait until mid-April to allow for any drop-outs before deciding where to place the fourth section.

Trustee Bruce Johnson suggested the district do all it can to keep kids in their home communities to maintain enrolment numbers in future years.

“It’s certainly advantageous to keep as many middle school students in Summerland as possible, because often if they have to go to Penticton, then they make friends and then Summerland Middle loses out and Summerland Secondary,” Johnson said.

Hyer confirmed that is her intention.

“That’s a big factor and that’s why we didn’t choose either way,” she explained.

“If you move that section to Summerland, it might mean that any of the kids from Naramata or Kaleden won’t go, and then if we have a few kids drop out, we might end up offering a second section for (only) five kids.”

In recent years, the school district has amended its policies to no longer guarantee entry to students who have an older sibling in French immersion and by random draw now allows students to decide in which community they want to attend, regardless of where they live.

As of December, there were 665 students — about 11 per cent of the district’s total enrolment — in French immersion classes from Grades 6 to 12.


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