News / Ottawa

Ottawa Board mulls merging classes amid French immersion boom

School reshuffle angers parents.

Parents are worried about their children being bussed away from their homes.

Torstar

Parents are worried about their children being bussed away from their homes.

Some Ottawa parents are decrying the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board’s proposal to redistribute students based on language streams.

Board staff drafted an Elementary School Program Framework to address both over- and under-enrolled schools, and the 70 per cent of Grade 1 students now in French immersion.

They propose cancelling streams like English or French-immersion where a grade has less than 1.5 classes of students. That means that if a school had less than 37 students in its Grade 4 English stream, the classes would be cancelled with students moved to another school.

“I was shocked when I saw this,” Susan Dallin O'Grady. “There’s always been this move toward inclusivity , so this is going backwards

While Dallin O'Grady’s daughter takes French-immersion courses, her son’s disability keeps him in the English stream. Both go to Hopewell Avenue Public School, which would likely loose its English stream under the proposal. That would create logistical headaches for her, while breaking her son’s friend groups.

“Just to say to the English kids, 'Oh, well you have to go somewhere else,' I think that's really stigmatizing and discriminatory,” she said, adding that it will be harder for children transitioning between streams if they are then relocated.

“It's like a double stigma; it’s already tough enough to leave French.”

Trustee Shawn Menard said parents also worry about increased busing. “It would be really detrimental for community schools, for walkability; for being able to go to your neighbourhood school and have a choice.”

Menard said the board must combat widespread perceptions that students outside French immersion face second-tier instruction. “There are many high-quality graduates who have come out of the English program, who have excelled in life.”

OCDSB Director Jennifer Adams notes her board doesn’t use a lottery system for French immersion, unlike other Ontario boards.

“Our board fully believes in open access for all parents,” she said. “We have to shift where our programs are, based on the number of places that are requested.”

Adams stressed the board is listening to parents’ concerns, through a consultation and an open committee meeting January 24, before the January 31 trustee vote. “We have a very transparent process,” she said.

But the board’s approach — implementing language sorting amid a handful of other proposals — is what’s upsetting parents.

“There’s a lack of transparency, for sure,” said Dallin O'Grady. “Why all of sudden is this a problem?”

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