Francophone school opens more opportunities for French culture in Golden

Francophone school opens more opportunities for French culture in Golden

Francophone parents in Golden have been working to get a Francophone school open to educate their children entirely in French for more than a year.

Now that a location has been chosen and the idea has been supported by Conseil Scolair Francophone (CSF) and the Town of Golden, the parents and students are gearing up for September 2019 in a new school.

But, these changes don’t come lightly, and it was only through careful consideration and study, and under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that they have gotten this far.

And, they hope the community will continue to support education in Golden, in the language they will be taught in.

A Francophone school not only teaches students their subjects in French, but helps to preserve French cultures in a minority environment. Under the Canadian Charter, students are supposed to be able to receive education in their mother language in either of Canada’s official languages.

For years, an early French immersion school existed in Golden, but it was removed from the educational system in town. Now, French parents are hoping to restore a Francophone school that would educate children from Kindergarten to Grade 4, and increase in grades as the students age.

Before contacting Conseil Scolaire Francophone, the French parents approached School District 6, which operates the schools in Golden, to see if it would be possible to bring back more French immersion education. But, they were at an impasse, and weren’t able to introduce more French schooling.

“So, our option was to turn to a school board that’s entirely dedicated to French speaking, and that will never cut down their services,” said French Canadian parent Jessica Chagnon.

To have a French school, the community must have a significant number of children interested in attending to get funding from the Ministry of Education. The French parents went to the French school board, and CSF decided they had enough interested students with 17 kids enrolled for September 2019. This number only accounts for about half of the eligible students in Golden, and could grow as the school establishes itself.

The eligibility requirements are not laid out by the parents in Golden, and were adopted as CSF policy five years ago. There are two ways to be admitted in the CSF.

Those who are Canadian citizens with children that meet at least one of the following conditions are automatically eligible: If the first language you learned and still understand is French, if you attended primary school in French in Canada, if one of your children attended primary or secondary school in French in Canada, or if one of your children is currently attending primary or secondary school in French in Canada. A French school in Canada excludes French immersion programs.

There are other admissions available, which can be found at www.csf.bc.ca. All admission applications that are from parents who are not eligible will be put before an admissions committee, which will assess the linguistic and cultural competency of the child, and the family’s desire to integrate into the Francophone community.

“This is all based on the Charter of Rights. It’s all black and white. It’s not in our power to nuance it,” said Caroline Tremblay. “It’s to protect the minority’s language and culture in a province where it’s not fully represented.”

A handful of communities that have opened Francophone schools have seen an increase to their French immersion programs. After opening Ecole Desrochers in Jasper in 2011, the town saw an increase in the French immersion enrollment, and Chagnon says Revelstoke is headed in the same direction.

Parents and residence of English and French speaking children have expressed concerns over moving French students from English schools, citing that it is beneficial to have both languages in the same classroom. Opening a dedicated Francophone school would ensure French-speaking students preserved their language and cultures, learning all subjects in their native language.

“I’m happy to see that people for and people against share the same fear about division. For me, it shows that we all have the same interest to be a united community, so that’s positive,” said parent Caroline Tremblay. “It’s not our intention to isolate our kids and ourselves. We believe that this school would enrich even the French immersion program.”

In the case of French immersion programs, Chagnon said, if a student is struggling, they are suggested to enter back into the main program to receive their education in English. In a Francophone school, struggling students would be able to get continued assistance in French.

Parents and students who are not eligible for the Francophone school have other ways they can be involved in the French community. Canadian Parents for French runs monthly activities that everyone is invited to, and hosts events throughout the year in addition to regularly scheduled activities.

“Everyone is welcome. We have Anglophones on the board. It is just to stimulate French opportunities in the community,” Tremblay said. “There are even better opportunities than sitting beside a French kid in class… We do baking, we do crafts, we’re going to do macarons.”

After searching for the right location, the CSF and building owners have determined that 820 11th Avenue S. would be an appropriate building for the school. The building is currently the bottle depot and Golden Consignment.

Renovations would have to be done on the building to include an outdoor play area, and a small gym inside, and a long term lease is in discussion.

The Town of Golden is holding a public hearing for the application to change the building from mixed use commercial C2 to community education and culture I2.

Feedback and submissions need to be made by 12 p.m. on Thursday, November 29 by post or e-mail to viv.thoss@golden.ca.

People will still have an opportunity to voice their opinions about the zoning amendment by appearing before council at the public hearing on December 4 at 7 p.m.

The public hearing does not relate to whether or not Golden should have a Francophone school, but discusses the zoning amendment being made on that building.

The CSF school aims to protect the French minority language in the province, and works similarly to Anglophone schools in Quebec.

For anyone who wants to participate, Canadian Parents For French – Golden is hosting a Christmas special and book fair on December 7. To find out more, go to their Facebook page: Canadian Parents For French – Golden.