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Applications rise at some French Immersion schools in Vancouver

Last Updated Apr 13, 2018 at 9:25 pm PDT

(Courtesy Vancouver School Board)

This year, parents were allowed to apply at any French Immersion school, regardless of their home address

The school board is reviewing the French Immersion catchment zones because of high demand at some schools

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Vancouver parents are finding out whether their kids have been accepted into French Immersion schools, and are in the process of accepting the spaces they’ve been offered.

This year, parents were allowed to apply at any French Immersion school, regardless of their home address.

That’s because the Vancouver School Board has temporarily eliminated catchment areas for the French Immersion program, as it grapples with too much demand for French Immersion in some neighbourhoods, resulting in lots of kids not getting into the program.

“Last year, if you lived in the west side of Vancouver, you had a pretty high chance of getting into the program – maybe an 80 per cent chance. But if you lived in the northeast corner of Vancouver, you had a 20 per cent chance,” explains Adrian Keough, the school district’s director of instruction for educational programs.

He says getting rid of the catchment areas for this year was meant to level the playing field.

He points out applications did increase this year at lower-demand schools, but about 300 students were still turned away from the program, roughly the same number of rejected applications as last year.

But Keough stresses that the intake for kindergarten was reduced from 500 spaces last year to 400 spaces this September, due to the new class-size restrictions.

Intake for Grade 1 has been increased from only 30 additional spaces, to 100. And parents enrolling Grade 1 children can make ten school choices on their applications, rather than the usual three.

“If parents did not get into kindergarten this year, they are very welcome to apply for Grade 1 spots for the subsequent year,” says Keough.

He believes as families move and as time goes on, parents may be able to enrol their kids in schools within their catchment areas.

“Nobody wants to see young children spending 40 minutes crossing the city twice a day. We are exploring how we may adjust catchment zones to try to re-align them to where families are living.”

The school board is in the midst of reviewing the French Immersion catchment zones. Keough says they’re analyzing the demand and the changing demographics of the city. He hopes the review will be ready to present to the board this fall, with changes to take effect for the fall of 2019.