Sandy Hill Elementary School in Abbotsford. (Abbotsford School District photo)

Sandy Hill Elementary School in Abbotsford. (Abbotsford School District photo)

Parents skeptical as Abbotsford school fills French immersion vacancy

School district says new teacher will start Dec. 1 closing vacancy currently filled by English teacher

The Abbotsford School District says it’s fairly confident it will have a Grade 4 French teacher vacancy filled by the beginning of next month.

Darcy Hanover, whose Grade 4 daughter is enrolled in French immersion at Sandy Hill Elementary School, told the News earlier this month a shortage of French teachers in the province has left the class learning mostly in English. The class had started the year with a French instructor, but that teacher left for a job in Chilliwack, with no backups to fill the vacancy.

On Tuesday, Hanover was one of a few parents backing a delegation to the school board to rally action for a greater backup of French instructors and to air concerns about the communication surrounding the issue.

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Pete Smith, who spoke on behalf of the parents, told the board the parents never heard about the vacancy until the day the English replacement teacher took over the class, despite the school and district receiving notice of the original teacher’s resignation for weeks.

“There has been little communication since then, and I would argue, and I think I can speak on behalf of all parents, that that caused about 97 per cent of the frustration,” Smith said. “The issue was handled poorly and arguably has been handled mediocre since that date. We’ve had no reassurance, there is no plan in place, there is no communication or very little communication for getting us a French immersion-qualified teacher.”

But at the end of Smith’s delegation, board chair Stan Petersen told the room a new French teacher will be coming on Dec. 1.

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Smith, Hanover and Lynia Taylor, another parent at the meeting, spoke to The News outside the boardroom after the delegation, and said they were skeptical of the Dec. 1 date, saying they were told the class would get a new teacher “possibly” on Dec. 10.

“We were told they had thought they had somebody when the provisional teacher left,” Taylor said. “Now they’re saying Dec. 10. I don’t have any faith that that’s going to happen, and now he’s saying Dec. 1.”

Smith noted that if the new teacher falls through, or if there’s another vacancy left by a teacher leaving, there’s still no safety net for those classes to have French teachers.

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Following the meeting, Supt. Kevin Godden told The News the new teacher was a new hire who just finished her practicum. Although it hasn’t been formally confirmed – the teacher still needs to be certified through the Teacher Regulation Branch – Godden said it was all but certain.

“There’s some details that we have to deal with, but this person has been interviewed,” Godden said.

“We’ve said it before. We are just as invested in trying to make sure that every child has a qualified teacher in front of them. There are going to be issues in French here, as with other places, and we’ll continue to do our best to try to rectify that. But there is no guarantee that we’ll be able to immediately fill every French immersion vacancy. On the contrary, I think the evidence has pointed to there is tremendous challenges with doing that.”

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

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