Public hears the what the HDSB thinks could be done to manage the trend to increased interest in French immersion.

News 100 blueBy Walter Byj

October 27th, 2015


It has been a trying five weeks for Director of Education Stuart Miller.

As if managing the ongoing teacher dispute was not enough to give him sleepless nights, he now is the lead figure in presenting to the public the impact of the French Immersion program on Halton schools.

Stuart Miller

Director of Eduction Stuart Miller – less than three months into his job is leading the public discussion on the handling of a trend toward higher enrollment in French immersion classes.

Monday night’s Burlington presentation at Nelson High School was the first of four presentations over the next two weeks. With a number of Halton Superintendents present along with all of the Burlington trustees (Collard, Reynolds, Pappin and Grebenc) and one Oakville trustee (J. Oliver) Miller took to the stage promptly at 7:00 pm.

Prior to the slide show presentation Miller stressed that this was an information session and that he was not looking for answers or solutions tonight.

“We want to share our information with the public”, he said “so that you can later provide input on facts that you have before you.” Speaking with a booming voice and the confidence of one who knows the topic well, he presented what could be a very complicated scenario with a straight “here are the facts “method.

Assisted for part of the presentation by Dom Renzella (Manager of Planning) the presentation covered how the huge uptake in French Immersion was negatively affecting English classroom sizes and potentially the quality of education the board could deliver.
His mandate and that of the board is to offer the highest quality of education to both the English and French students; the current trend was affecting the English program negatively.

He noted that getting qualified French teachers was another huge issue facing the board. He explained the current situation would be bleaker in upcoming years and that now was the time to act.

The initial step was to form a committee (the Program Viability Committee) that enlisted the aid of staff, principals and trustees that studied the collective information before them and then whittled down 14 recommendations to the current four.

Be it resolved that the Halton District School Board present the following options for the delivery of French Immersion to the public in the Fall of 2015 for the purpose of receiving feedback, considerations and comments. Feedback will be brought to the Board for consideration in the delivery of French Immersion programming:

1. Option 1: Grade 1 (early) French immersion remains a 50% French 50% English delivery model, but entry to FI will be capped. The method of capping would be determined at a later date.

2. Option 2: Grade 1 (early) French Immersion remains at 50% French and 50% English, however all FI programs will be delivered in single track FI schools. French Immersion will be phased out of dual track schools and no new dual track schools will be considered. The location of the single track schools will be determined at a later date.

3. Option 3: French Immersion will commence at a later entry point (mid entry); Grade 4. This will result in the delivery model of FI moving from a 50% model to at least a 80% French Immersion model. In addition the delivery of FI will occur in dual track schools only.

4. Option 4: French Immersion will commence at a later entry point (mid entry); Grade 4. This will result in the delivery model of FI moving from a 50% model to at least a 80% French Immersion model. In addition the delivery of FI will occur in single track FI schools on

HDSB sign with flagIn presenting the four current recommendations Miller was emphatic in saying they were not etched in stone but are merely a starting point on which the public can tweak or reject outright and offer something completely different.

Miller wants public input would get to the board between November, 2015 to March 2016 and that a decision could be reached by June 2016. Implementation would not occur until September 2017.

Completing the presentation in a very quick forty-five minutes, a lot quicker than the planned hour and half, Miller offered to take some questions from the half packed theatre stressing that now was not the time for solutions.

He was asked if more drill down data would be available. Yes he replied.

What is the retention rate of FI students? 5% of students leave the program annually.

What is the definition of viability? The ideal classroom size is 20 students and many of our English classrooms have less than 10 students he said.

Will the original 14 scenarios be released? Yes he replied.

Why do parents enrol their children in FI? No definitive answer from Miller. Is the Halton busing policy too liberal and is it increasing the uptake in FI? Too difficult to measure Miller replied as buses carry a variety of students.
In conclusion, Miller said that each of his presentations are being taped and will be available on the HDSB site

It was a solid first presentation for Miller and no doubt he will feel more at ease with upcoming presentations. But will the solution be easy?

Although the audience did come for the information presented, some came in with a filter as to how to interpret the facts. Those who feel that French is essential will no doubt be building a case for why the FI program must not change dramatically from its current form.

Others, from past experience, felt that English programming would take a back seat to French and that the final result is pre-determined.

That is quite a divergence of opinion and it will take all the skill of Director Miller along with the HDSB trustees to execute a plan that will probably not gain many friends but will find an equitable solution.

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