A recently released report reveals there are “significant waitlists” for early French Immersion programs in Surrey, primarily in the south and east ends of the city.
The Surrey school district’s report, reviewing its specialty kindergarten programs, notes there are 102 students on kindergarten waitlists for French Immersion, and 58 students in Grade 1 awaiting entry.
But while there are high demands in some schools, there is under-enrolment in others.
According to the report, the district doesn’t have enough space to host new French programs in communities where there is demand, and that the “shortage has been further exacerbated this year by implementation of the Memorandum of Agreement as it pertains to class size and composition.”
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Finding qualified French Immersion teachers is also proving challenging for the district.
The district is closing the Cougar Creek French Immersion Program at the end of this school year due to low enrolment and the report notes parents have shown a desire for placement elsewhere, but may not be willing to travel if the new program is outside the community in which they live.
Meantime, the district reports there has been a “constant” demand over the years for its Intensive Fine Arts Schools at David Brankin and White Rock elementaries.
Combined, there are 61 kindergarten students and 33 Grade 1 students on the wait list.
The majority of the demand is in White Rock, the report notes, but both schools face challenges in finding specialist fine arts teachers.
The district is also struggling to find qualified Montessori teachers, the report reveals.
Between all three schools that offer Montessori (Latimer, Mountainview and Sunnyside elementaries), 41 kindergarten students are on a waitlist and 25 in Grade 1.
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When it comes to traditional schools in Surrey, McLeod Road was highlighted as the one with the most significant demand.
Currently, 52 kindergarten and 34 Grade 1 students are on a waitlist, with none awaiting a spot at Surrey Traditional, and just 12 kindergarten students on a waitlist for Cloverdale Traditional.
Meantime, the district’s Discovery Program has not had a wait list for three years, with an average of nine students in the program, per grade.
“The concept of Discovery was ahead of its time, and with the evolution of the curriculum, teaching practices and approaches have caught up to it,” the report notes, adding that this choice program is very similar to the Neighbourhood Program.
“A point to consider is exploring, with the Discovery School Community, the impact, challenges and benefits of formally shifting the school focus to one Neighbourhood Program and vision.”
The report concludes that “district staff should continue to monitor the consistency and quality of programs of choise. The consistency and quality is dependent, in part, upon the district’s ability to recruit and support qualified teachers.”
The Surrey Board of Education received the report during a meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 14.
District spokesman Doug Strachen said one of the district committees will be considering the report and coming back to the board with recommendations, likely for the next meeting.