French first casualty of school year

Laval Junior Academy’s enriched French cancelled to respect bubbles.

Laval’s two English high schools have altered their language programs to comply with Quebec education ministry and Santé publique guidelines.

At Laval Junior Academy in Chomedey, the French Immersion and Enriched French were cancelled for the school year to respect the class “bubble” directives. The programs will be back next year, according to the SWLSB board, which responded within hours of the query about French programs.

Nearby Laval Senior Academy (LSA) has no French immersion program but does offer enriched French classes. Those classes have also been cancelled for the school year says board spokesperson Maxeen Jolin, adding, “LSA is concentrating on the courses needed for students to enter CEGEP.” Enriched French is not a CEGEP prerequisite.

One parent at the junior school expressed disappointment to The Suburban, saying, “I understand it may be a logistic nightmare but it’s not impossible. Surely there is a way to make sure we get our kids more French. What happens next year, after a year of minimal French? Do they even qualify as immersion classes? It’s kind of important in high school, I don’t see how they can drop such a vial part of the curriculum.

The SWLSB has some 100 students enrolled in its virtual online school, and the board could not confirm by press time if it is offering a French immersion curriculum to students with medical exemptions.

Meanwhile in Montreal, schools across the EMSB network have also abandoned French immersion and other programs to respect the bubble concept. Some Montreal parents received an email from their child’s high school the morning of the first day back, advising that their children no longer have a French immersion program.

“In order to comply with the public health authorities’ request of maintaining students within their bubble, we were forced to make some adjustments to our course selection,” reads an email from Royal Vale High School in N.D.G. For the 2020-2021 academic year, secondary two and three students will all be instead enrolled in a program offering 68% instruction in English.

The EMSB was asked multiple times for clarification, specifically, if there are provisions for extra French resources, or transfers to schools that offer immersion education in the district. No response was forthcoming other than a copy of the email already distributed to parents. The EMSB also did not respond if the 400 students attending the EMSB’s online school due to medical exemptions are receiving French instruction as enrolled, unlike those in-school.

Other schools, boards and service centres in the Greater Montreal area are similarly adjusting programs, some using novel approaches to keep kids learning at the pace they are accustomed. Some schools are using space wisely and offering in-school Zoom classes to blend bubbles from different cohorts rather than wholesale canceling of curriculum.

But to find out 90 minutes before the school year begins that their child will receive minimal French instruction was a shock for many parents and students in Montreal and Laval, where some did not know until the school year had already begun.

While social media is replete with comments from parents, The Suburban spoke to parents on site on condition of anonymity. “No sports, in-class recess, minimal French, but they need uniforms? What a bunch of baloney!” said one mother, laughing when she heard the news outside the Draper street entrance. “Next they’ll push private tutoring on us.”

Other parents were more sanguine. “It’s shitty I agree, but there is no ‘normal’ anymore, and we have to be a little flexible don’t we? Had I known beforehand I may have made alternative plans, but it’s day one, my kid is smiling and it’s not the end of the world. Everyone needs to please calm down.”

Administrators at three private high schools in Montreal told The Suburban that in the first week of school they received a handful of queries from Laval families but received a steady flow of calls in the following weeks. Two of the schools said they have “significant” waiting lists that have priority and it is too late in the year to consider new students. The third said it is only a matter of transportation arrangements that is preventing them from receiving more students.

Asked by The Suburban if the NDG private school will accept applications a week into the school year, in a statement College Villa Maria said they would not be able to accept new students for this current school year as students are accepted a year in advance. What’s more there are waiting lists for both its French and English sectors and “priority would go to those students on the waiting list.”

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