French immersion will stay at John Robson Elementary

Parents of early French immersion at John Robson Elementary will probably be pleased to learn the program will stay at their school when a newly built school is built on the former Saint Mary's Hospital site.

The school district had planned to move the program to Lord Kelvin Elementary when a replacement Robson is constructed. Instead, trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to offer Early French immersion at the new elementary school, which is slated to open in September 2014.

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Trustee Lisa Graham, who raised the idea to keep the program at the downtown school last May, was pleased with the decision to keep French at Robson when the new school is built, but worried about crowding at Glenbrook Middle School, which would house the Robson French students until a new middle school is built.

She said the middle school, located at Terry Hughes Park is already "bursting."

"I don't see how we can possible fit, continuing EFI from Robson as well," she said.

She believes it would be best to keep the Robson students at the new school until the third middle school is built in New West, and that was what she expected would happen when she brought the issue forward.

But Sandra Pace, the district's director of instruction, said there wouldn't be enough classrooms at the new elementary school to house those students.

"There's no more classrooms," she said, adding there would be a Grade 4, 5 and 6 split if the students stayed.

"I think we've had four, five, six splits," Graham said.

Board chair Michael Ewen raised the issue of junior Kindergarten for four-year-olds, a possibility the provincial government has raised, and the impact it would have on classroom space at the school.

Trustee Jonina Campbell said the district heard a great deal from French immersion parents, but not much from those at the school whose children aren't in French immersion or from teachers.

She would have liked to have heard more from them, she said.

"I'm just trying to make sure we represent all of the kids," Campbell said.

At Kelvin, Pace said, "There's not a ground swell of interest of having French immersion at Kelvin."

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