Nelson parents seeking to have their children placed in French immersion next year were not happy with a decision by the Kootenay Lake school board Tuesday.

Parents demand SD8 inquiry

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  • Sat May 28th, 2011 2:00pm
  • News

A group of middle school parents are calling for a review of the way the Kootenay Lake School District makes key decisions.

Trafalgar Middle School’s parent advisory council has written to the SD8 board asking for an outside consultant to look at “efforts to engage parents in key education issues, including but not limited to the recent discussions over French immersion enrollment.”

The call comes after SD8 decided not to expand its French immersion offerings at the middle school, despite continued pressure from parents. More than 90 students had signed up for the program, which is normally capped at 60.

According to the council’s letter to trustees, “recent interactions between Trafalgar parents, soon-to-be Trafalgar parents, trustees, and staff have resulted in parents experiencing a high degree of frustration [and] a critical loss of confidence in the leadership within this district.”

The group would like to see a review initiated as quickly as possible, with recommendations presented at the start of the next school year.

While only trustees can initiate a formal review, superintendent Jeff Jones says he doesn’t think it’s a bad idea to examine SD8’s inner workings — something he’s already asked school trustees for permission to do.

The board has agreed to set up community engagement committees in each of the district’s “families of schools” (Nelson, Creston, the Slocan Valley and so on). Terms of reference for that project should come to the board table in June.

“I think we do recognize that there’s a very critical component of public engagement and input that’s required for us to have a successful school system,” Jones says. “So from that perspective I appreciate the recommendation that’s being made by the Trafalgar PAC.”

While he’s not sure if the board will agree with the Trafalgar parents, “I would hope if there is a review, the spirit of the review is to look forward.”

Jones says he’s also planning an examination of French immersion and other French programming in the district — which was approved at the same meeting where the board voted against expanding Trafalgar’s immersion program. He says that should generate new criteria which would be used for accepting students into immersion, and look at how the program could be expanded outside of Nelson.

Meanwhile, other parents involved in the immersion furor have sent out their own press release, saying they feel information presented to them during discussions around the issue was flawed.

“If this is the case, it is time for the district to consider putting a third class back on the agenda,” writes Francesca Blishen, a member of the district’s French Advisory Council.

Jones says the first 60 students who registered for the program have already been contacted to confirm their places, while the other 30-plus have been sent letters telling them they’re on the waiting list.