With enrolment on the rise at schools in the Panorama and south Newton areas, French Immersion spaces at Woodward Hill Elementary will be cut in half for the 2017-2018 school year to make room for more students.
Despite receiving provincial funding last month for an expansion at Woodward Hill, officials say the growing number of students in the catchment area have forced the district to re-evaluate their priorities.
The new addition at Woodward Hill is scheduled to open in 2017 and will move students currently in portables into classrooms. But by the fall, the school is expecting to add four new portables to accommodate growing enrolment. Spaces gleaned from the French Immersion program will also be used to help meet the need.
French Immersion spaces are currently being offered at Cougar Creek Elementary, but the viability of that program will be based on demand.
“Cutting the French Immersion class was literally the only thing they felt they could do to start mitigating some of the increases, knowing that even with the addition, it is just not enough,” said Cindy Dalglish, a member of the South Newton Community Association.
Dalglish has been lobbying both the district and the province to fund more spaces for students in the south Newton area.
In May, the provincial education ministry announced $100 million in funding for rapid expansion projects at Sullivan, Woodward Hill and Panorama Park elementary schools. However, Surrey School District staff believe the announced completion date of fall 2017 for those projects is “ambitious and unrealistic.”
The funding priorities announced by the ministry do not match the list of expansion projects prioritized by the district.
Surrey trustees were unhappy with having to reduce French Immersion spaces, but felt it was their only option, said Trustee Laurae McNally, who is hopeful the program will be back once sufficient facilities are in place.
That said, McNally believes there needs to be more discussion regarding all the Choice programs currently being offered in the district.
“We’ve got huge wait lists for more than just French Immersion,” she said. “We have wait lists for fine arts, montessori, traditional schools and we need to have a discussion about this and (with the current funding shortfall), are we building up false hopes for parents?” she said.