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Three early French immersion classes planned in South Okanagan

French program for students in kindergarten and Grade 1 expected to start in 2014 with classes in Penticton and Summerland

School trustees heard last week that a new, early French immersion program would likely start out with two classes in Penticton and one in Summerland.

The program is currently in the study phase and wouldn’t begin until 2014 if approved later this spring by the board of the Okanagan Skaha School District. It would start kids in kindergarten and Grade 1 and complement the existing late French immersion classes that begin in Grade 6.

Assistant superintendent Dave Burgoyne is leading the study and told the board’s education committee on Jan. 29 that based on parent surveys, he expects 45 to 50 students would enrol in Penticton, plus another 18 to 20 in Summerland.

Carmi and Wiltse Elementary Schools have the most space available to accommodate the new program in Penticton, while Giant’s Head and Trout Creek Elementary Schools are the options in Summerland.

He cautioned that the projections are for information only and will form part of the feasibility study presented to trustees in May for a decision.

The school board also learned on Monday that administrators are prepared to run three Grade 6 classes in late French immersion in Penticton next year, based on 96 student applications received, and just a single class in Summerland based on 43 applications there.

Trustee Linda Van Alphen asked if administrators would consider adding another class in Summerland, but superintendent Wendy Hyer said the proposed arrangement makes the best use of available resources. Hyer added that everyone on last year’s Summerland wait list eventually made it into the program.