Saskatoon to get new French immersion program in its west side

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WATCH ABOVE: Change is coming to one of Saskatoon's west-side elementary schools. Catholic division officials say the opening of new facilities next year gives them the capacity to move some students around to create room for French immersion classes. Joel Senick reports – Dec 1, 2016

The Greater Saskatoon Catholic School (GSCS) division plans to add an eighth French immersion program next school year to meet the demand of the city’s growing west side.

Division officials determined that St. Peter School in Dundonald would be the best location for the new program, since it’s located near a number of Saskatoon’s growing neighbourhoods.

READ MORE: Saskatoon school boards experience rapid student growth

Currently there are only two schools that offer French immersion located in Saskatoon’s west side.

“If you look at the growth of our city and you look at the west-sector growth with the four phases that are outlined … that will house around seventy-thousand people,” Darryl Bazylak, a GSCS education superintendent, said.

“With that comes more families, more interest in different programming and French immersion is no different with that.”

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Enrolment at École St. Gerard, one of the two west side programs, has grown from 380 to 575 students in nine years according to the school’s principal Gisele Jean-Bundgaard.

“It’s been steady throughout every single year,” Jean-Bundgaard said.

“We have a lot of newcomer families, especially from the Philippines and from Vietnam, joining our St. Gerard family.”

READ MORE: New Saskatoon joint-use schools on schedule to open next fall

GSCS officials determined that extra capacity created by the new joint-use schools opening in 2017 will allow them to move students from École St. Gerard to St. Peter. So far 119 students have confirmed their plans to move to the new program, while 25 others are undecided.

“[There was] getting to be a lot of modulars there, smaller playgrounds and smaller green space, so it was time and our community was saying that by their enrollments,” Bazylak said of École St. Gerard.

Bazylak added that the division is sympathetic to the fact that change can be hard for some students. He said officials “can work on a transition plan between the two elementary schools.”

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“[Students] can still do some things together because their friends of five or six years will still be at École St. Gerard,” Bazylak said.

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