Report: French-immersion students make up 10 per cent of enrolment in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Students at Laity View Elementary read french books in the school library. - Ashley Wadhwani/The TIMES
Students at Laity View Elementary read french books in the school library.
— image credit: Ashley Wadhwani/The TIMES

As parents continue to look to alternative learning programs for their kids, French-immersion enrolment has been steadily increasing in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows schools.

Last year, 1,536 students in local schools were registered in the French-immersion program – 10 per cent of the entire student body, according to a recent report by the Canadian Parents for French B.C. branch.

Laity View Elementary principal Shelley Linton told The TIMES the program has seen steady enrolment numbers for the last several years.

Linton is also the coordinator for all French-immersion programs in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows schools, including Eric Langton, Pitt Meadows Elementary, and Maple Ridge Elementary.

Pitt Meadows Secondary, and Maple Ridge Secondary also offer French-immersion programs.

She noted that each school runs a dual-track program, meaning French-immersion and English students learn separately in the classroom, but still play together at lunch and attend assemblies and field trips together.

At Laity View, French-immersion enrolment has drastically surpassed the number of students in the English program, Linton noted, with 450 students in French, compared to 240 in English.

Linton said enrolment could be increasing for two reasons: parents looking for options in the classroom, and the known benefits of learning a second language.

"I think generally, parents these days are looking for options for their kids,” she said, noting alternative programs in the community include the environmental school and Montessori.

Similarly, “a lot of parents went through French immersion themselves,” she added.

"We have excellent teachers and we’ve been around a long time. I have confidence in the program.”

According to Statistics Canada, Canadians who speak both French and English earn an average of 10 per cent more, and have a lower unemployment rate, compared to those who only speak one of the two official languages.

However, with enrolment remaining steady, it’s been a continuous challenge finding French-speaking teachers, Linton said.

“We're a victim of our own success. Now we can’t find people to teach [the program],” she added.

In the spring, Linton went to Simon Fraser University with the school district’s Human Resources staff to speak to the group of french-immersion teachers in the program and “sell them on Maple Ridge,” she continued.

But other communities are doing the same.

It’s "competitive from the hiring side,” she noted, not only for permanent staff, but for TOC’s – or teacher’s on call.

Still, school district staff are “always on the look out,” for potential teachers, she said. “As soon as we get an application we interview them."

As the program grows, more staff will be needed, she added.

For now, most classrooms in the program remain completely full, or close to it, she concluded.

Graph of enrolment in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, provided by Canadian Parents for French B.C. branch:

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