Vancouver School Board votes to axe French immersion program at Kits elementary school

Parents attend a Vancouver School Board meeting in support of the French immersion program at Henry Hudson Elementary. Global News

The Vancouver School Board has voted to end the French immersion program at a Kitsilano elementary school.

Trustees voted Monday night to phase the program out of Henry Hudson Elementary over the next eight years, with no kindergarten class beginning in 2020.

WATCH: B.C. schools scramble to fill French immersion teaching spots

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B.C. schools scramble to fill French immersion teaching spots

The decision came as the school struggles with a lack of capacity, with not enough spaces for English-language students who live inside Hudson’s catchment area.

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READ MORE: Teacher shortage leads Abbotsford French immersion school to use instructor who can’t speak the language

“As a school board, we’re often in a position where there is not a good answer,” said school board chair Janet Fraser. “We have to pick from an imperfect set of impossibilities.

“It speaks to the parameters that we have to work in within the city and working with the ministry of education. We have no control over where development occurs in the city.”

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French immersion teacher shortage

Fraser said the school has already made hard choices like eliminating art, music and computer spaces, and that even without the French program, Hudson is still projected to run into long-term enrolment problems.

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But parents who turned out to the meeting were visibly upset.

“Your school is your rock. You set up your life around it,” said Jody Bielun, whose daughter attends Henry Hudson.

“They want to organize the schools so that the English catchment kids have somewhere to go. Well, this was our French immersion catchment — this was the only place we could go for French immersion, living in the downtown core.”

READ MORE: 2 years after a court decision, Vancouver francophones say their kids still need more schools

Jessica Holmes said the school board and education ministry deserve an “F for math.”

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Vernon parents line-up overnight in January for French immersion registration

“The numbers don’t line up. They’re saying we’re going to cut out the French immersion program, but where are they going to go?” she said.

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“It’s a missed opportunity and it’s also short-term thinking, because they’re planning for building a [new seismically upgraded] school that only will house English students at this time.”

Fraser said district programs such as French immersion can be moved to any school withing the district, but that policy dictates that enrolling space at schools should be prioritized for in-catchment students.

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