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French program cut for Grade 4 students at local school

SUTHERLANDS RIVER – Parents were notified a couple of weeks ago that the Middle French Immersion program at Frank H. MacDonald Elementary school won’t be offered for Grade 4 students this fall.

Chignecto-Central Regional School Board spokesperson Debbie Buott-Matheson said the decision is related to numbers. The board approved a protocol in 2014 that for any optional French program class to begin, it must have 20 students, she said. “They were well below.”

She said students already participating in the program – those who will be in grade 5 and 6 next school year – won’t be affected, unless the class numbers decrease below 15 students. “If the class dips below 15 and it’s unable to be combined with another class, it may be discontinued.”

Principal Frank MacNeill said: “Parents are obviously disappointed.”

Buott-Matheson said while she knows there’s disappointment, she doesn’t think the decision came as a huge shock because of the extensive discussion about French Immersion programs in Pictou County over the last few years.

“While it’s not welcome news, I think it’s understood. People were well versed in the challenges there were.”

CCRSB held a series of public meetings in late 2013 regarding the future of French Immersion in Pictou County because of declining enrolment and the extra costs associated with that.

Buott-Matheson said this is the first year since the program began that it won’t be offered for Grade 4 students at Frank H MacDonald. Next year the program will be made available again, but if the enrolment numbers are too low for three years in a row, the program could be discontinued permanently.

French Immersion programs at Truro Elementary (starting in Grade Primary) and Riverside Education Centre in East Hants (starting in Grade 7) have also been discontinued for the 2015-2016 school year.

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