Cold Lake French Immersion Moves to Art Smith

Northern Lights School Division (NLSD) says the decision to move its French Immersion programming, in Cold Lake, was driven by smaller attendance numbers and the need to keep the program viable. Communications Officer for NLSD, Nicole Garner, says the move came after consultations with parents, the school board, and teachers & staff at the Cold Lake schools.  Garner explains the Board received six recommendations following the consultations, “they decided to approve and move forward with all of the recommendations.”

The Board Approved Recommendations:

  1. Three-Year Commitment to French Immersion Programming in Cold Lake
  2.  Public Information Campaign to Promote the Program
  3.  Centralize the Program at Art Smith Aviation Academy for 2016-17
  4.  Hosting a French Language Summer Camp
  5.  Bilingual Kindergarten Option
  6. Additional Financial Support for French Immersion

“At the meetings on of the concerns expressed by parents was with enrollment having gone down, there was some uncertainty in the program,” explains Garner, “it was a factor with the parents whether to put their kids in French Immersion, if the programming would continue.” The Board has committed to the three years to allow the program to grow and develop, “hopefully, in that three year period we’ll be able to grow the program so it is self-sustaining, through student enrollment.”

The Board hopes that by better promoting the program and sharing information on the benefits of French Immersion enrollment will increase, says Garner, “part of the consultations, parents identified the benefits. We’ll be working on how to share that information and getting it out to people.” The program will move from being offered at three Cold Lake schools, to one for the upcoming year. Art Smith Aviation Academy will take over the French Immersion program for Kindergarten to Grade 8. At this time, French Immersion is not offered at NLSD schools, in Cold Lake, past Grade 8. However, the Board is open to expanding the programming should a need be present during the three-year commitment period. “The idea is to see how it grows and if we are getting a string enrollment, we would start looking at what to do after Grade 8.”

“The parents had suggested that one of the things that would draw interest in French Immersion would be to hold a french-language summer camp,” Garner says the Board is looking into this exciting possibility. “We’re looking into doing that in conjunction with the summer school programs we already do.”

To spark interest in French language early, NLSD is looking into a bilingual Kindergarten program so parents and students can test the waters, says Garner. “You can test drive how you kid does in French Immersion and if it’s a good fit for them, then you can make the decision after Kindergarten.”

The goal at the end of the three-year commitment is for the French Immersion program to be self-sustaining, Garner says to get there the Board will put additional funding into the program. “We will be providing additional financing, over the three-year period, with it increasing each year of the three years. The goal is for [the program] to be self-sustaining with enough students enrolled for it to pay for itself.”

The Board was very appreciative of the support that it received from the community; the number of parents who came out to the meetings and their willingness to work with the Board to find solutions that we can use to make the program viable over the long-term and address some of the declines in enrollment that we had seen. They had some really great suggestions and we’re trying to build French Immersion into a really strong program. – Nicole Garner Communications Officer Northern Lights School Division

NLSD will finish the school year as is, and move French Immersion to Art Smith Aviation Academy for the 2016-17 school year. Principal of Art Smith, Chris Vining says the school is excited to host the program and is looking forward to the extra students in the hallways and classrooms!

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