From The Scrapbook By Rev. Bill Randall

Harvey, McAdam Dive Into French Immersion

August 7, 1997

Children living in Harvey and McAdam will now have the option of enrolling in French immersion — in one of the last anglophone areas in Canada’s only bilingual province to get the pro gram.

In a decision announced to parents this morning, school district superintendent Vic Martin said a 20-student Grade 6 immersion class will be created in Harvey this September, with four students coming from McAdam and the rest from Harvey. A 20-student Grade 1 immersion class is also being created in Harvey with all the students coming from that village.

“Now that we have made the commitment, the program is a go,” Dr. Martin said. Even if the student numbers fall off in future years, he said, the district will look to combine classes before considering its cancellation.

Parents of children going into Grade 6 and those just starting school had lobbied the district to consider dropping the 25-student minimum that had to be met be fore the program could begin. They successfully argued that rural areas should have a lower tar get.

By transferring the McAdam students, Dr. Martin said, the regular and immersion Grade 6 classes at the Harvey school will be more balanced. Before, there were 15 students interested in immersion, leaving 28 in the regular program. Now the student numbers are closer with 20 and 27, respectfully.

A bus already runs between the two western New Brunswick communities so there will be no extra transportation costs, the superintendent noted in an inter view.

Only 16 students had ex pressed interest in the Grade 1 entry point earlier this year. But the district discovered that more children had moved into the zone this summer and its polling found that a total of 20 would register if the program was running. The regular Grade 1 class at Harvey Elementary will have 24 students.

Parents in the village of Stanley have also been asking the district to establish a Grade 1 immersion class at their elementary school. The district is still grappling with the possibilities, one of which may lead to the establishment of a combined Grade 1 and 2 class.

There were 15 expressions of interest back in February, but at the time that was deemed to be too few.

Getting the early entry point up and running may depend on how successful the district is at convincing parents of 10 children in Taymouth to consider a trans fer from Marysville to Stanley.

The three parents contacted so far by the district have declined. Many parents living in Taymouth work and have day-care arrangements in the city.

Stanley has an immersion program starting in the middle grades, but the numbers have been falling off. In September, a combined Grade 7 and 8 classes will have to be formed with a total of just 21 students — half the number that had first registered in the program.

Last week, Education Minister Bernard Richard asked the superintendent to take a “good, hard second look” at providing French immersion in the two villages.”From the numbers I have seen, we don’t really have enough for a viable French immersion program,” the minister said before the matter was re solved. “We know from past experience that there is a dropout rate in immersion classes  some children go back to the regular classes.

“I have to be mindful of that. If you create an immersion class with too small a number, often the regular class will be large and you have to question whether you are treating the other children fairly and equitably.”

Also last week, parents from Harvey suggested publicly that they might sue the government to try to force the introduction of the program. That method was adopted by parents on the province’s north shore who were trying to prevent their schools from closing. The government opted to keep them open just days before a scheduled court hearing.

However, Mr. Richard said that such tactics don’t work.

“The threat of a court action shouldn’t deter us from putting in place a good policy that’s applied fairly,” Mr. Richard said.

He also argued that the government is keeping those particular schools open due to a change in philosophy. He dismissed suggestions that they were actually bowing to pres sure.

“We acted in spite of the law suit and the rioting last spring,” the minister said. “(The pending lawsuit) made it harder for us to adopt the policy.

“The suggestion in the media that we were reacting made it harder for us to get it through cabinet. Some of my colleagues said we would be accused of cowing under to rioters and  lawsuits . .. it made it harder for us to move on the new policy.”

Source: Rev. Bill Randall’s “From The Scrapbook

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