After nine years of developing a French Immersion program in Innisfail, students, teachers, and staff, will soon witness the results of their hard work as the first group of students moves into Innisfail Junior Senior High School (IHS) in September.
Soon, there will be more than one language gracing the hallways of IHS and it will start with a group Grade 8 and 9 students, some of which have stuck with the program since kindergarten.
“We have waited a long time for the program to build and our goal is to get every one of those kids though Grade 12 with a French certificate,” said John Hand, IHS principal.
“Four years ago the school board made us a promise to see these kids through the program.”
Hand said that the program will be great for the school but as with any new program there will be question marks.
“With smaller class sizes coming into the school the program will need some support,” said Hand, adding they will be continuing to work with the middle school to make sure the students benefit from the larger French community there.
The soon-to-be high school students will also continue to work with the French Immersion classes at the École John Wilson Elementary (JWES) in a mentorship capacity to help them develop their French language skills.
Chana Burg, a University of Alberta graduate from the Faculté Saint-Jean, the French campus of the UofA, will be the new full time French Immersion teacher at IHS beginning in September.
A number of other faculty member are French speakers as well, an asset that Hand said will help to create a larger French community in IHS.
The new French culture at the school will be one that adds diversity to IHS, an addition that will benefit all of the students rather then just the French Immersion ones, said Hand.
Handing the students off to IHS will be the Principal of Innisfail Middle School (IMS) Jay Steeves, along with his staff of French Immersion teachers at IMS.
Steeves said that with the program at all three schools the staff would be working towards promoting the schools as one large campus working together to ensure the program remains successful in the future.
“Our school community needs to look at the big picture of the program, it’s not just my kids or your kids but we will have to look at what is best to keep them all on the right track,” said Steeves.
A new teacher will be joining the French Immersion team at IMS replacing Melanie Janzen who will be moving on to teach in Red Deer next year. Drew Martin, a recent University of Calgary graduate, will be taking on the Grade 6 and 7 split class, while Cody Pivert will be returning to IMS to teach the Grade 4 and 5 split.
JWES Principal, Jackie Taylor, said that a big result of the program extending into the high school would be an increased assurance for parents thinking of putting their children into French Immersion.
“A big part of my role at the elementary school is connecting with families at the first level of French Immersion and this will really enforce to our parents that this is a K-12 program,” said Taylor.
“I am really excited we have accomplished this for our families.”
Registration numbers for the program are continuing to grow with at lease 21 students registered for French Immersion kindergarten at JWES.
Taylor said that their task would now be to continue to strengthen the program and encourage it to grow up through the others schools.