French immersion programs face overcrowding, but Sooke OK for now

School district has wait lists in Colwood and Langford

Some French immersion programs in the Sooke School District are having problems with overcrowding as students are being added to wait lists, but so far, this is not the case for Ecole Poirier elementary in Sooke.

“There’s definitely more kids registering for French in Sooke right now than last year, but there is no problems. We still have room for students to apply,” said district superintendent Jim Cambridge.

According to an open letter from the Canadian Parents for French B.C. and Yukon Sooke district chapter that was sent to Sooke School District and a number of other individuals, Colwood’s Ecole John Stubbs will reach its student capacity by September, meaning there will be limited space for kindergarten in the single track French immersion school.

Ecole Millstream in Langford is nearly at capacity with portables on site.

Though there is also a high demand for these programs in Sooke, there are no wait lists, and Poirier has found ways to have enough space for all students who applied and fit the criteria.

Last year 44 kindergarten students enrolled at Poirier, and this year so far there has been 52. There is room for 60 students.

In December, the province announced it would contribute $23.3 million towards the purchase of a 6.5-hectare site in Langford for the district to build an elementary and middle school. There are no plans to add more space in Sooke.

Enrolment for French immersion programs is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Parents who are put on wait lists stay on it until they hear if a school can accommodate them. If not, the child defaults to the English program in their catchment area.

Assistant superintendent Stephanie Hedley-Smith said the district is continuing to juggle the issue of increased enrolment as schools approach capacity.

“We knew French immersion enrolment was increasing. It is a juggle for us as our schools are approaching capacity. If there is physical classroom space in a school to make another class we do everything we can to do so,” she said.

“At present, we have wait listed in-district families with the hope that we can accommodate their request. While we would love to have the classroom space to accommodate for more, our first priority is students and families who live in our school district.”

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