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French Immersion For Local Students (Posted On: Sunday, May 25, 2008)

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When it was time for 5 year old, Zoe Letourneau to head off to school for the first time, her parents Gil and Carolyn had a decision to make. “Where would Zoe go to school?” As Kimberly residents the Letourneaus live within the Beaver Valley Community School’s catchment area. But with a French background and a number of French speaking relatives the Letourneaus started looking for other options that would give their daughter more of a French language background. Gil says, “Canada is a bilingual country and a second language will give Zoe advantages throughout her life and future career.”

The Letourneaus found what they were looking for at Ecole St. Vincent-Euphrasia Elementary School in Meaford (S.V.E.).  Bluewater District School Board has 9 elementary schools offering a French Immersion Program which starts in Junior Kindergarten, Senior Kindergarten or Grade 1.  Presently, at S.V.E. French Immersion starts in Senior Kindergarten.

After attending Junior Kindergarten at Beaver Valley Community School in Thornbury, Zoe transferred to S.V.E. in Meaford and is now enrolled in the Early French Immersion program.  Zoë’s mom Carolyn says one of their biggest concerns was transportation, but the School Board has that covered. “Zoe takes the bus to B.V.C.S. and then transfers to another bus which will take her to S.V.E.  It adds another 10 or 15 minutes to her trip, but she is getting on a bus anyway so it doesn’t add that much to her day.” 

There are 292 students at S.V.E. in grades J.K. to five. Being a dual-track school, 82 of the students are in the French Immersion Program.  Madame Tremblay (Dawn) is the French Immersion Senior Kindergarten teacher. She says Kindergarten here is all about immersing the children in the sounds of the language. “The older they are, the harder it is for them to learn the rhythm, sounds and patterns of a new language. We use songs, props and actions to illustrate. The more they hear the better they get.”

Children in French Immersion Kindergarten receive 400 hours of French instruction over the school year.  In grades one and two student receive 810 hours of instruction which decreases to 720 hours in Grade 3 when English is introduced as a separate subject.  In Grades 4 and 5 French instruction drops back to 450 hours because English, Math and Science are taught in English. As student progress through Grades 6 to 8 the French instructional time is maintained at 450 hours.
 
Oscar Burnside is the Principal at SVE. He says there are enough students to allow for  one French Immersion Kindergarten class to operate in the next school year and he doesn’t expect that to change. “Schools throughout the School board are facing declining enrolment because of changing demographics in the region. We are not experiencing an increase in numbers here at S.V.E. but, we expect to hold the line.” He adds, “ We need between 18 and 20 students to run the kindergarten program and there are only a few spots left for next year.”
 
In 2007 S.V.E. was selected as a “School On The Move” in the Ontario Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat’s Lighthouse program.   The designation recognizes significant improvement in student learning at the school, according to provincial test results.

Dr. Avis Glaze Chief Student Achievement Officer and CEO for the Secretariat says “Schools on the move are exciting places to learn because teachers and principals have read the research, know what works and act on their professional know how.”

Burnside is proud of the School’s designation and credits the staff of 18 teachers and 6 educational assistants.  He says “We have local teachers with experience and some new staff members in the mix. There are high expectations that everybody works together as a team to take ownership of the student body. We don’t let anybody slip through cracks.”

Zoe Letourneau is almost finished her first year of French Immersion.  Carolyn and Gil Latourneau say Zoe has adapted well and they are happy that the option for French emersion is available here. “Biggest thing is, that its there, it’s not for everybody but it’s for us.”
 
For more information on the Early French Immersion program contact Oscar Burnside at St. Vincent-Euphrasia Elementary Phone: 519 538 1950.  
Email: oscar_burnside@bwdsb.on.ca   To check your schools performance click here.

Article Written by Roger Klein, member of S.V.E. Parent Council
 

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