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Mel Pardy, assistant superintendent of education for Yk No. 1 explains impending changes to French programming to parents and teachers at a Jan. 20 public meeting.

Board shelves French-only for J.H. Sissons school

Lisa Scott
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 11/05) - Yellowknife Education District No. 1 trustees have shelved a plan to turn J.H. Sissons into a French-only school.

"We'll put it on hold for now," board chairperson Reanna Erasmus said after the board reviewed results of a survey.

More than 64 per cent of the 181 parents and teachers who responded to the survey said no to a single-track school at Sissons.

"We were quite pleased with the results of the surveys," Erasmus said.

Parents and teachers rose up in anger in January, against what they called a "poor communication process" after the district revealed a plan to turn J.H. Sissons into a French-only school, possibly before the end of this year.

The survey was part of a last-minute consultation process added to appease parents and teachers.

The board eventually backed down, agreeing to save Sissons from its all-French fate. They implemented immersion starting in Kindergarten at the school instead.

Consider motions

At their next regular meeting in April, board trustees will consider motions to increase the number of minutes required for core French, offer a pilot intensive core French program in Grade 6 and late immersion starting in Grade 7, and to maintain the current middle immersion program at J.H. Sissons.

Parents and teachers appear willing to lend their support to changes to French programs across the district, as long as Sissons is spared, according to the survey.

As for keeping middle immersion, the board decided to stick with a program that is working, as long as enrolment numbers support it.

By giving parents the option of putting their kids in French immersion beginning in either Kindergarten or Grade 7, Erasmus figures the current Grade 4 entry point will die off anyway.

"We'll keep it as long as we have enough numbers. I think what will happen is that parents will be putting their children in early immersion and in late immersion and it will naturally work its way out," she said.

Staffing gets attention

With the stress of the last two and a half months apparently over, trustees and administration are turning their attention to staffing the needed French positions.

"We're quite confident that we're going to be able to fill (the positions)," said Erasmus.

An internal search is already on for a French immersion teacher for Sissons for 2005, according to Mel Pardy, assistant superintendent of Yk No. 1.

"We have some of our teachers in the system who have taught early immersion, so basically we anticipate we'll fill that position internally," he said.