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Eliminating English-only education on table of OCDSB program review

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More reaction is coming from parents as the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board looks to make major adjustments to its elementary programs including French immersion and how it is delivered.

“Certainly we could keep the existing program or make a new program and if we did a new program the question then is would it have to be for all students?” said Lynn Scott, OCDSB Board Chair of Trustees.

Living in Ottawa, Tamara McNulty knows being bilingual can be beneficial, so she enrolled her son in French immersion in kindergarten.

“Even though we are an English family, what I wanted was an opportunity for him to really start from the beginning and developing those French skills,” said McNulty.

But in Grade 2 McNulty said he started to struggle.

“We learned that he had a learning disability and that was impacting his learning and we made the tough decision to move him to an English school,” said McNulty.

As the OCDSB undergoes a review of its elementary programs, parents may no longer have a choice.

One of the options on the table is streamlining all elementary students into French immersion, eliminating English-only altogether.

One big problem is that French immersion schools are over capacity, in some cases, and some English schools are half-empty.

Students are bused away from schools that are not at capacity to get French immersion at schools that are full.

“I think parents should have the opportunity to choose what kind of care and education streams that their children go to and support is always an issue throughout,” said Early Child Educator Michelyn Maloney.

Some parents, like Neha Patel who immigrated to Canada, worry what it could mean for students with English as a second language. She pulled her son from French immersion in Grade 4.

“I could not help him I even tried a French tutor and it is very difficult to find a French tutor,” said Patel.

According to the board, nearly two-thirds of OCDSB students are in early French immersion in Grade 1 but that drops to 43 per cent by Grade 8.

As the board looks to close the gap between the two streams, parents are concerned.

"If we're forcing them to learn in two languages, we’re taking the decision away from parents to make that decision, what's best for their child at a particular time in their learning and development?" said McNulty.

Public consultations

The OCDSB is holding a series of public consultations on the elementary program review. You can find out more on the board's website.

Here is a list of upcoming meetings:

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

D. Roy Kennedy Public School – 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Glashan Public School – 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Longfields-Davidson Heights Secondary School – 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Sawmill Creek Elementary School – 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Avalon Public School – 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 

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