Sandy Hill Elementary School in Abbotsford. Photo courtesy Abbotsford School District

Teacher shortage leaves B.C. French immersion class learning in English

Concerned parents seek to speak to school board, advocate for solutions for teacher shortage

A group of Abbotsford parents is calling for change from the school district and provincial government as their French immersion children are being taught in English due to a lack of teachers.

Darcy Hanover’s Grade 4 daughter is enrolled in French immersion at Sandy Hill Elementary School, but the teacher has left to accept a job offer in Chilliwack, where she lives.

“We’re having no luck finding replacements, so currently our children are being taught in English, which is not what we signed up for when we’re French immersion,” Hanover said.

RELATED: Abbotsford teachers call out ‘chronic underfunding’ in classrooms

As the province and B.C. Teachers’ Federation gear up for collective agreement negotiations, Hanover said she hopes to see the school board advocate for better pay for teachers, with few provinces paying teachers less than B.C.

But school board chair Shirley Wilson said the board typically hasn’t sent letters to advocate issues to the B.C. government

“They could, but we’ve not typically done that ever in the past, because that’s only one of our employee groups. We have several employee groups,” Wilson said.

RELATED: Abbotsford schools short 54 teachers, including 23 full-time

Hanover and nine other parents from the class are hoping to speak as a delegation at the next school board meeting on Nov. 13 to bring the issue to the school board.

“We’re just a group of concerned parents who are trying to find any way to save this school year for our children, because the message we’re getting form the leadership is that ‘take what you’ve got. Be grateful to have any teacher and the kids can make it up in later years,’” Hanover said. “Which we don’t find an acceptable message to send to nine-year-olds.”

While some students enter French immersion from kindergarten, Wilson said others don’t start until Grade 6.

“All of those kids end up in the same classrooms in Grade 8. They merge because their quality of instruction has been such that they can all learn at the same level at that point,” Wilson said.

RELATED: BCTF wins grievance over teacher shortage in public schools

But Hanover wasn’t convinced that the students’ French won’t go unaffected.

“They talk about the slide that happens over summertime, which is why they’ve every now and then, the idea of full-year school comes up. That’s just two months. What would 12 months do for that backslide?” she said.

“Next year, they’ll be in Grade 5, and that Grade 5 teacher will be having to try to teach two years worth of French. … It’s not like there’s extra resources to make it up next year. We’ve strapped all of our EAs and learning assistants.”

The group of parents suggested the school rotate staff through different classes so each class gets regular exposure to English learning, but Hanover said the school district’s response was not supportive, because it could affect the education of numerous classes, rather than just one.

Abbotsford School District spokesperson Kayla Stuckart said in an email that the district has been working to attract French teachers, including mentorship, prioritizing, creating a full-time recruitment position and financial incentives for relocation.

“Our primary focus during this interim period is to ensure the requirements of the BC curriculum are being met. As such, we have a qualified teacher in the classroom supporting continued student learning in English. We are also adapting to ensure that students are still getting continued exposure to the French language,” Stuckart said.

That includes “team-teaching” three days a week for French reading and writing, joint field trip and other events with other French immersion classes, a buddy program between French immersion secondary and elementary students and bringing in fourth-year French university students as volunteers.

Report an error or send us your tips, photos and video.

Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

Send Dustin an email.
Like the Abbotsford News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

“Does Kirby care?” Heiltsuk Nation using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

“No excuse” for killing of two young grizzly cubs

Reader hopeful someone will come forward with information

UPDATE: U.S. firm fined $2.9M for fuel spill that soiled B.C. First Nation territory

The Nathan E. Stewart spilled 110,000 litres of diesel and heavy oils in October 2016

No delivery services hard on local families

New parents Candace Knudsen and Bjorn Samuelsen spent five weeks away from home

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Two dead in two-vehicle crash between Revelstoke and Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Most Read