Parents cautiously optimistic after DDSB defers French immersion decision in Pickering

Click to play video: 'Durham District School Board defers decision on French Immersion' Durham District School Board defers decision on French Immersion
Parents at Maple Ridge Public School are cautiously optimistic after the DDSB has deferred a decision to convert a Pickering school to solely French Immersion. The idea was met with major backlash from parents as it could have forced more than 200 students to move to another school. – Jan 22, 2020

Parents came out in droves to an open house regarding a controversial proposal to convert Maple Ridge Public School in Pickering to solely French immersion.

The concept has since been deferred after pushback from parents.

“It’s not right, it’s unjust,” says Glenn Tate, who has a daughter at the school.

Families angry with the idea came to the public meeting armed with placards expressing their displeasure with the Durham District School Board (DDSB), with messages like, “let me stay here, don’t make English disappear”.

“I don’t think even the way they went about doing this was the right way,” says Sharon Gomez, who has three kids at the school.

Nearly two weeks ago students of Maple Ridge in Pickering were sent home with a letter detailing a proposal that would see more than 200 English students moved to another school, Vaughan Willard Public School, to make room for French immersion.

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Parents called it a tone-deaf move.

READ MORE: Parents upset after Durham District School Board proposal regarding French immersion

“Did the board not think the kids could read that?” says Gomez. “I heard a lot of kids were in tears by the time they got home.”

On Monday, the board appeared to backtrack after backlash from parents. Now, it’s pushed the idea into next year.

“We heard the community loud and clear,” says DDSB Superintendent, Jim Markovski. “I think part of what we have learned from this as well, is having time to have really meaningful conversations,” he says.

When the news of the plan came down, it was especially upsetting to Manju Sharma’s son Ryan.

“Since he got that news, he’s been upset crying that he’s not going to be with his brother anymore.”

Continued resistance was apparent at this public meeting, which gave parents a chance to weigh in. But even with the roll-out being deferred, some are skeptical.

READ MORE: Durham Catholic District School Board teachers hit picket line for one-day strike

“What are you going to do? what is your plan?” says Gomez. “Where are you going to put in the stops to keep parents in the loop on what’s happening?”

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The reasoning behind the proposal is to alleviate pressures from increased French immersion enrolment at the school. Maple Ridge has seen a massive increase of students in the French stream. Since 2014, the number of French immersion students at Maple Ridge has climbed exponentially from 263 to 456.


A graph shows the enrolment rate over a five-year period at Maple Ridge Public School. Light blue shows the French immersion program, compared to the regular stream.
A graph shows the enrolment rate over a five-year period at Maple Ridge Public School. Light blue shows the French immersion program, compared to the regular stream. Frazer Snowdon

In the same period, the regular stream had just a marginal increase from 188 to 220, with projections of dropping in the future as well. But parents allege the school board is actually creating the problem.

“They are bussing students from eight other schools into our school and claiming enrolment is exploding,” says Tate.

Now parents are left to wait and see what happens next — but they remain cautiously optimistic on what happens next.

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“We’re afraid they are going to regurgitate the same proposal next February,” adds Tate.

The board has now ordered a full review of the French immersion program across the region. That is expected to be completed by next fall. Parents are hopeful their concerns will be addressed before the proposal to move students from maple ridge is looked at again in 2021.

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