With students soon going back to school despite the growing COVID cases in the province, some parents, including a Maple Ridge mother, are worried about not having the online learning option continued for choice programs, such as French immersion.
Katie Clunn, a mother of three, along with several other parents, have been writing to the school board, the superintendent, the person in charge of the online schooling last year, and the person in charge of French immersion program, to see if there is a way for them to not send their kids to in-person school this coming semester, until vaccines are available for kindergarten through Grade 6.
“Where there is risk, there should be options available for those who are concerned. Until the younger ages are eligible to be vaccinated, I believe they should be allowed to continue working from home. I do not think it will need to continue once the vaccine is available for Kindergarten to Grade 6,” said Clunn.
Clunn’s daughter Danika will be going into Grade 7 and is double vaccinated. However, her younger son Wesley will be going into Grade 4 French immersion, and is not yet eligible to receive a vaccine.
“With the data showing that the Delta variant is stronger and more contagious, we are hesitant to send him back and put him at risk, as well as the risk of him bringing it home to his little sister,” she said, adding she is only asking for the schools to have an online learning option until vaccines are available for younger kids.
“I am not asking to get them to do an online school forever but when the province is asking to limit contact on one hand, and also not giving us online options, I don’t understand how that works,” she said.
Last year, Clunn had started a petition to ask the B.C. government to hold places for students in choice programs such as French Immersion, who wouldn’t have been returning to class for the school year due to the pandemic. The school district hired some french teachers for online learning in September 2020, and was able to offer online learning for the choice program starting mid-October last year.
“Both of them did online learning last school year and really enjoyed it. It was a huge relief to be able to keep them in their french classes while maintaining their safety,” she said.
Clunn said so far the school district has told her that an online learning option won’t be possible for the program.
Irena Pochop of School District 42 said that it was important to note that the success of a French Immersion program depended on a full-time, in-person, fully immersive experience.
“A remote learning model, no matter how well designed, simply cannot replicate the richness of in-class language instruction and experience. Language learning involves daily, in-person practice if one is to become a fluent, bilingual communicator,” she said.
Furthermore, she also confirmed that not being able to offer French online learning options was due to unavailability of federal funding.
“School districts were only able to offer expanded remote learning options during the 2020/21 school year because they received targeted federal funding for this purpose. This funding is not being made available to school districts for the 2021/22 school year. As a result, while our district continues to provide some remote program alternatives (e.g. online learning for students in grades 10-12 through Connected Learning Community and the Odyssey program for students in K-9), we are not able to offer the same expanded remote options – including remote French immersion – that were in place last school year,” said Pochop.
Clunn has now written to the Minister of Education and is awaiting a response, hoping for either a funding boost to the school district to host online French Immersion programs, or a provision to hold places for students who have to opt for English online learning until they can go back to french immersion program.
“We are so close to having this over with; why not do everything we can to make sure we get it right,” she said.
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