French immersion numbers soar

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There are 1,792 students in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district enrolled in French immersion K-12 programs this year.

That is 182 more than last year and represents approximately 13 per cent of the entire student population in the district.

Like the rest of the province, Nanaimo-Ladysmith has been experiencing skyrocketing enrolment in French immersion, which has risen from just a few hundred students when it was first introduced in the late 1970s.

Peter Hewitt, vice-principal for French immersion at Nanaimo District Secondary School, said enrolment in the program in Nanaimo-Ladysmith is not centred in any one area or limited to any socio-economic group.

“The program offers an extra challenge to families who are looking for something for their kids beyond the district’s regular programs,” Hewitt said. “The program is also fully funded and parents are not required to pay extra fees. There are many benefits to becoming functionally bilingual in French, including becoming more qualified for government and other jobs.”

French immersion is offered in four elementary schools in the district – Pauline Haarer, Quarterway, Hammond Bay and North Oyster – and students can continue the program through high school at NDSS.

Hewitt said the district has no current plans to expand the program, but there have been some discussion around tweaking French immersion in both the district’s south and north ends. He said there is a “grassroots group” in Ladysmith who want Ladysmith Secondary School to offer the secondary French immersion program there due to travelling constraints.

“The program at Hammond Bay school is full again this year and there are wait lists so many parents in the north end would like another elementary school in the area with a French immersion program,” Hewitt said.


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