Kindergarten enrolment moves online
posted Dec 13, 2013 at 8:00 AM— updated Dec 13, 2013 at 10:49 AM
Some local parents have been so committed to making sure their child gets enrolled in French Immersion, or some other choice school, they have stayed overnight at the school – in early January – to be first in line for kindergarten enrolment.
Those desperate days, hopefully, are gone.
Next month, for the first time, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district is going to a new online kindergarten registration system, one that is locally developed and may be unique in the province.
“As a parent who stood outside three times in the rain, I am happy to see this happening,” trustee Sarah Nelson said at Wednesday’s board meeting.
Deputy superintendent Laurie Meston said she had fairness and convenience foremost in mind when planning the system. Programs will still be done on a first-come, first-served basis, but using a system where nobody will benefit by sleeping outside a school.
“This is expected to be streamlined, efficient and effective,” said superintendent Jan Unwin.
No other school districts in B.C. have such a system yet, to the board’s knowledge. Some call their processes online registration, but they amount to emailing the district information, with the paperwork to follow.
Unwin said there may be an opportunity for the district to market the software and system, once it is developed and tested.
“The hope is this will be a sale-able item,” she said.
Meston has been asked why the district doesn’t allow in-person registration at the same time as online sign-ups are being taken.
The answer is that the online registration can be “determined down to the millisecond.”
For parents trying to get their child into year-round school, the environmental school, French Immersion or other choice programs, it is important to know that the first-come, first-served system is working.
“We’re really trying to make it as fair a process as possible.”
Parents will be able to register to be part of a portal in advance, look at the registration form and print it out, so they will be ready with their information.
The district will also provide help lines via phone and email.
Elementary school libraries will have designated computers, and there will be computer sites at the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows public libraries set aside for kindergarten registration, in order to ensure all parents have access to a computer. The registration can be done from any online computer.
Kindergarten registration priority will still be given to children to have a sibling at the school, then to students who live in the catchment area for a the desired school, and next to students who attend daycare in the catchment area for the school.
Registration will be open to children who are five years old by Dec. 31. It will open for siblings on at noon of Jan. 15, for choice programs on Jan. 22 and for regular kindergarten on Feb. 4. Registrations will begin at noon, unlike 7:30 a.m. in the past, and close at midnight.
Pamphlets about the new process have been printed, and have been distributed to parents.
The link to the kindergarten registration process is located at www.sd42.ca/kindergarten-registration.
Parents will be able to “test drive” the online registration form beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
“This will hopefully be more user friendly,” said Meston
Dual-language babies may be smarter
MONTREAL — They may mix words in one sentence in a charming mélange of franglais or Spanglish but dual-language babies may be smarter than those who babble in only one lingo.
Scientists are finding there are “cognitive advantages” to bringing up baby in a bilingual home. Plus, bilingualism seems to confer benefits at both ends of the age spectrum by protecting seniors against dementia.
But initially, a setback. Vocabularies of babies under age two are slightly smaller when parents mix elements from two different languages in the same sentence, a new study from Concordia University found.
But growing up bilingual does not confuse a baby and make learning to speak more difficult, rather it gives them an edge, a growing body of research suggests. They may be slower in picking up each language than children raised speaking just one, but that temporary drawback is offset by the benefits of bilingualism, said Concordia University psychology professor Krista Byers-Heinlein.
According to one estimate, 66 per cent of the world’s children are bilingual. With the rise of global bilingualism, researchers wondered: What is the linguistic environment of such babies?
Done in collaboration with psychologist Janet Werker of the Infant Studies Centre in Vancouver, B.C., the study recruited 181 parents who are themselves speakers of English and at least one other language.
Turns out most of the babies were learning two languages simultaneously. Up to 90 per cent of parents switched with ease from one tongue to another in the same breath when interacting with their children, the study found.
“It’s a normal part of being a parent of a bilingual child,” said Byers-Heinlein, director of the Concordia Infant Research Laboratory and member of the Centre for Research in Human Development. A few parents adopted a method of “one-parent, one language” but in reality, most mixed their languages regularly. Either they couldn’t find an adequate translation for particular words in a current language or they used the mix as a teaching strategy for new words, Byers-Heinlein said.
The greater the language mix, the greater the challenge for the babies and the smaller their vocabularies, Byers-Heinlein said, perhaps because it’s harder to pick up meaning from a mixed-word phrase. “But this is also a strength because we know from other studies that bilinguals can tell two languages apart from birth,” she said.
Fetal hearing is fully developed by the third trimester of pregnancy and the babies “are listening” in on their mothers 24/7, she said.
In a previous study, Byers-Heinlein’s lab compared 2-day-old infants of mothers who spoke two languages during their pregnancies with babies of single-language moms. There was a marked difference at birth. Babies of bilingual moms recognized both their languages.
Byers-Heinlein distinguished between the two groups by measuring how often newborns sucked on pacifiers (that were hooked to a computer) in response to sounds. Monolingual babies preferred their own language over a stranger’s, while in bilingual babies, both their familiar language sounds elicited active suckling, the study found.
A decade of studies in Canada suggests bilingual children perform better on cognitive tests than monolingual kids who only speak English. Researchers believe that the effort of juggling or switching between languages is what gives the brain massive practice and a cognitive edge thanks to improved neural circuits in the frontal region of the brain needed to execute such control.
Individuals who are fully bilingual constantly have both languages activated at all times, even during monolingual situations where they are using one language, explained Toronto psychologist Ellen Bialystok of York University, whose team last year showed bilingualism may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
But it’s not yet clear that bilingualism provides increased resistance to Alzheimer’s.
“Our view at the moment is that the enhanced executive control network that bilinguals have developed compensates for failing memory networks (which are in the middle of the brain),” Bialystok told The Gazette. “This allows them to function at a higher level than they would normally with the disease.”
John Breitner, director of the Centre for Studies on the Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease at Montreal’s Douglas Mental Health University Institute, agreed. For one thing, it’s not clear what came first, bilingualism or a robust brain that seeks stimulation, Breitner said. “Maybe bilingualism is protective, or maybe those are the kind of households where, when people grow up, they have less dementia.”
The best evidence comes from randomized trials on brain stimulation that aim to tease apart pre-disposition from protective effects. Brain stimulation definitely has benefits, Breitner said. “Whether that lasts is another question and whether that means they are protected against Alzheimer’s is another.”
French immersion will stay at John Robson Elementary
|French immersion will stay at John Robson Elementary|
Parents of early French immersion at John Robson Elementary will probably be pleased to learn the program will stay at their school when a newly built school is built on the former Saint Mary’s Hospital site.
The school district had planned to move the program to Lord Kelvin Elementary when a replacement Robson is constructed. Instead, trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to offer Early French immersion at the new elementary school, which is slated to open in September 2014.
Trustee Lisa Graham, who raised the idea to keep the program at the downtown school last May, was pleased with the decision to keep French at Robson when the new school is built, but worried about crowding at Glenbrook Middle School, which would house the Robson French students until a new middle school is built.
She said the middle school, located at Terry Hughes Park is already “bursting.”
“I don’t see how we can possible fit, continuing EFI from Robson as well,” she said.
She believes it would be best to keep the Robson students at the new school until the third middle school is built in New West, and that was what she expected would happen when she brought the issue forward.
But Sandra Pace, the district’s director of instruction, said there wouldn’t be enough classrooms at the new elementary school to house those students.
“There’s no more classrooms,” she said, adding there would be a Grade 4, 5 and 6 split if the students stayed.
“I think we’ve had four, five, six splits,” Graham said.
Board chair Michael Ewen raised the issue of junior Kindergarten for four-year-olds, a possibility the provincial government has raised, and the impact it would have on classroom space at the school.
Trustee Jonina Campbell said the district heard a great deal from French immersion parents, but not much from those at the school whose children aren’t in French immersion or from teachers.
She would have liked to have heard more from them, she said.
“I’m just trying to make sure we represent all of the kids,” Campbell said.
At Kelvin, Pace said, “There’s not a ground swell of interest of having French immersion at Kelvin.”
Parents push for French Immersion SD46
January 13, 2013
Christine Wood/Staff Writer
Two parents on the Coast want to see a French immersion program started locally, and they’re looking for other like-minded parents to join their cause.
Kirsten Rawkins and Marci Beacham Fuller are new additions to the Coast who both thought their infants would benefit from French immersion classes once enrolled in School District No. 46 (SD46).
“It’s something I assumed we’d always have access to, so I was surprised when I found out the Coast didn’t have a French immersion program,” Beacham Fuller said.
Rawkins was also surprised at the discovery, and the pair started looking into how to start a program here late last year.
In November they held an information meeting and 16 parents came, although many more expressed interest.
“The meeting was a first step for us,” Rawkins said. “Our next step is to contact the people who were at the meeting and those who expressed interest to set up a formal parents’ group and hopefully start a chapter of Canadian Parents for French (CPF) as a way to support the whole project.”
CPF is a parent-led non-profit organization that has worked for more than 30 years to provide French-language educational, social, cultural and sporting activities for youth.
“It was recommended that we start a chapter just so they could support us more with our initiative and so they could be present when we meet with the school board to present our ideas. And we can also get funding through CPF if we’re a chapter, which would be not only to set up a French immersion program, but it would be to help support any other French education programming initiatives on the Coast,” Rawkins said.
There is currently a separate French school on the Coast, Ecole du Pacifique, but it serves only the Francophone population. If you don’t have French heritage, you can’t enrol.
The French immersion program Rawkins and Beacham Fuller are looking into would serve students in SD46 who are interested in learning most or all of their programs in French, regardless of their background.
Although it would ultimately be SD46 providing the programming, it will take a demonstrated interest from the community to get the board to investigate the idea.
“If there’s very little interest in a program then we wouldn’t invest the time in it. It wouldn’t be reasonable,” superintendent of schools Patrick Bocking said. “Developing a new program takes an awful lot of staff time and focus from other things just because you can’t do everything. So there has to be a need and an interest in the community for any program to happen.”
For that reason Rawkins and Beacham Fuller want to assess the appetite for a French immersion program on the Coast and they ask anyone interested to contact them either through their website at www.coastparentsforfrench.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call Rawkins at 778-462-2138.
Vancouver School Board eyes French immersion expansion
The Vancouver School Board says another French immersion program could be up and running by September.
Parents are now signing children up for next year, but as in the past, lotteries will be run at several schools because of high demand.
At a recent information session at Vancouver’s L’école Bilingue, parents were told there will likely be more than 100 children put into a lottery for just three dozen available spots.
Gino Bondi, the principal of specialty programs, says administrators are now meeting with trustees to figure out if more programs can be added.
“That will be forthcoming in the next couple of months,” he said. “I think that would be a distinct possibility, that you’d see growth in some parts of the city.”
There are currently 14 elementary schools in Vancouver that offer French immersion.
The Education Ministry say French immersion enrollment in B.C. is up nearly 50 per cent in the last decade, with 47,000 students around the province.
Taking a journey towards bilingualism
Did you know that the Vernon School District offers a program called Late French Immersion?
This program offers students an opportunity to enter French immersion at a later age. The district’s program is housed at Harwood elementary school and is going into its successful ninth year.
The late French immersion program represents a joyful, transformational learning opportunity open to all Grade 6 students in the Vernon School District.
Late French immersion at Harwood school allows Grade 6 students the chance to learn to speak, read and write French in just one short year. Students do not need to be able to speak or know any French, nor do their parents for that matter.
LFI students are motivated, hard working and determined learners. All subjects are taught in French in Grade 6 and English is reintroduced in Grade 7. LFI students then go on to Seaton and integrate seamlessly with students from early immersion.
Late French immersion is more than just your average language experience. It is a type of learning experience that supercedes the “norm.” Where do you get the chance as a learner to be absorbed into a close-knit community where everyone has chosen to come together for the same goal: learn French, speak French, dream in French?
The happiness that emanates from the room in LFI is contagious. We’re a team and a family and we work hard to achieve our goal. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have tough days, because we do. Taking a risk is hard. But in the end, it is always rewarding. Students feel like they climbed a mountain and the view on the other side is this beautiful, bilingual landscape that we would have missed out on if we hadn’t taken the challenge. It’s so worth it and life changing.
A parent information evening will be held on Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. in the Harwood library for parents who wish to learn more about the program. Registration for the program, which takes place on a first come, first served basis, begins Feb. 4 at 9 a.m. at Harwood school.
If you have any questions, please forward them to Madame Tedesco at Harwood, 250-542-5385.
Written by Rita Tedesco, vice-principal and Grade 6 Late French immersion teacher at Harwood.
Bilingual Adults Have Sharper Brains, Study Suggests
Being able to speak two languages isn’t just useful for traveling to other countries — it could actually help keep your brain in tip-top shape in older age, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine found that senior adults who’ve been bilingual since they were children had better “cognitive flexibility” — being able to go along with a new or unexpected circumstance — than those who only knew how to speak one language. The findings are published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The findings suggest “bilingual seniors use their brains more efficiently than monolingual seniors,” study researcher Brian T. Gold, Ph.D. said in a statement. “Together, these results suggest that lifelong bilingualism may exert its strongest benefits on the functioning of frontal brain regions in aging.”
The study consisted of two experiments that included 110 adults between ages 60 and 68, who had brain imaging tests done as they did a cognitive flexibility test. Some of the participants only spoke one language, while the others had been bilingual since childhood.
The researchers found that even though both the monolingual and bilingual study participants were able to complete the task, the ones who were bilingual were able to do so more quickly. The brain imaging also showed that their frontal cortex brain regions used less energy than the monolingual seniors as they did the task.
Previous research has suggested that being bilingual could actually help to protect the brain from age-related disease. A study published last year in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences shows that being able to speak two languages could help to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.
HuffPost Canada reported on the findings:
According to Dr. Ellen Bialystok, the lead researcher in the study, bilingual adults were found to have a greater cognitive reserve as they got older that allows the mind to run longer and more smoothly.
“It is rather like a reserve tank in a car. When you run out of fuel, you can keep going for longer because there is a bit more in the safety tank,” said Bialystok in an interview with the Guardian.
Timing off for survey
Parents lobbying for early French immersion in the Chilliwack school district are concerned a survey aimed at gauging interest might get lost in the Christmas shuffle.
“It’s a crazy time of year to have this study,” said Jocelyn Thomas, president of the Chilliwack chapter of Canadian Parents for French. “Everybody has everything else on their mind.”
The survey, which comes in both an online and paper format, was released Dec. 4. Responses are due Dec. 18 for the paper survey and Dec. 21 for the electronic one, so Thomas’s organization is now scrambling to get the word out.
“We want to contact all the daycares and preschools to let the parents with young families know,” she said.
Besides its timing during the Christmas bustle, Thomas is concerned about the survey’s reach.
So far the district has only publicized it within the district: on its website, in school newsletters and on school websites.
But not all parents who might want an early French immersion program already have kids in the system and could therefore be missed, according to Thomas.
That’s important, she said, because the survey is intended to measure interest “both to begin an Early French Immersion program and to maintain it in the future,” according to the district’s introduction.
A report on the feasibility of an early immersion program in Chilliwack is due by the end of January.
The original November 2012 deadline was extended because a change of superintendents had delayed the hiring of a consultant to conduct the study.
Superintendent Evelyn Novak said the district wanted to get the survey done by Christmas so the report could be done on time.
“We’ll see what the response is,” she said. “If we have to do another take, we can try that if we need to.”
As for publicizing the survey more broadly, Novak said the district hadn’t considered it.
The timeline for the start of a possible program is September 2014, according to the survey.
If the program gets the green light, Thomas said Chilliwack CPF will lobby the district to start both a kindergarten and Grade 1 class at that time, instead of just a kindergarten class as indicated by the district earlier.
“There is enough demand that we can see for that year as well,” said Thomas.
For more information or to take the survey, visit www.sd33.bc.ca.
Push for West Coast French immersion continues
Andrew Bailey, Westerly News
West Coast parents are continuing their push for French immersion despite funding refusal from School District 70.
“There is still a strong will and a desire in both communities,” says chapter president for the Tofino-Ucluelet Chapter of Canadian Parents for French (CPF), Denise Aujla.
“French immersion would provide our children with valuable educational, economic, and cultural benefits. Our CPF chapter will continue working toward this realization.”
The chapter did a survey to gauge local interest in an early French immersion program and presented the results of this survey to the school district in February.
The chapter claims they were not made aware of the rejection decision until June, leaving no time to appeal before the school season kicked off in September.
The survey showed Ucluelet and Tofino had 28 students in Kindergarten and Grade 1 ready to immediately register for French immersion.
The chapter believed 28 to be a viable number to secure funding.
SD70 superintendent Cam Pinkerton tells the Westerly News the district’s decision to reject was not based on an inability to start, but an inability to sustain the program.
He says early immersion requires students to start in Kindergarten so West Coast Grade 1 students would not be eligible. And, he says the cohort would need to be intact through to Grade 12 with little or no attrition.
Another factor is lack of support from the West Coast’s First Nations, which Pinkerton says makes up 60 per cent of the West Coast’s student population.
“They do not have support of the aboriginal community. In fact, they would look at Nuu- chah-nulth immersion before they would look at French immersion.”
The chapter questions this 60 per cent number and says the district has not provided any hard numbers and did not conduct a formal feasibility study.
The chapter also points to federal funding available to school districts for French programming.
Pinkerton says that federal money is being spent on current programming.
“On the West Coast, the benefit that the elementary schools get is having a fluent French speaker delivering a French program,” says Pinkerton.
He suggests there are other options for infusing the French language into the West Coast’s youth including a late immersion program that would start in Grade 6.
“The French skills of those kids by Grade eight is very similar to the early immersion kids,” he says. “That is something that we could look at.”
While he says this is an option, he admits a proposal for late immersion would be met by the same funding scrutiny because, “you have two smaller schools out on the West Coast and we just don’t have the population to support either early or late French immersion.”
He says a more realistic goal for the chapter is an intensive Grade 4 program to run parallel with current programming.
“It’s a compromise for smaller communities,” he says. “Some smaller communities have done that and we suggested that, but there was not a lot of take up from the parents on that idea.”
The chapter-struck October 12, 2011-will continue its funding fight with a new board voted in during its October 25 annual general meeting.
Aujla has taken over the board’s presidential responsibilities with Louise Rodgers serving as vice president.
Deddeda White is the board’s secretary, Yuri Zharikov its treasurer, andTodd Windle is member-at-large.
The new board plans to conduct a new French immersion survey to present to the school district prior to the 2013-2014 school year.
A crepes breakfast will be held December 2, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Tofino Community Hall, aimed at families interested in a French immersion program. The event will include French themed games and music.
West Coasters interested in joining the movement can do so online at www.cpf.bc.ca/site3/index.php/join-cpf. The chapter has also set up a Facebook page.
“If we had unlimited funds and sources we’d love to be able to offer multiple languages in an immersion kind of setting,” Pinkerton says. “But our mandate is in English and we can provide some French support and we do that through, currently, a fluent French speaker that comes to the elementary schools.”
Former trustee puzzled by early French immersion failure
By Joe Fries – Penticton Western News Published: November 17, 2012 8:00 PM
Something turned off parents the last time the school board considered an early French immersion program and it could well have been the proposed site, according to a former trustee.
In February 2005, the Okanagaå Skaha School District was prepared to place two French immersion kindergarten classes at Queen’s Park Elementary in Penticton, but elected to cancel the program when just 27 students were signed up.
Now the district is taking another look at offering the classes, which would compliment an existing late French immersion program that starts in Grade 6. A feasibility study is underway and the first parent information session is set for Wednesday night at Uplands Elementary.
Connie Denesiuk, who was at the helm of the school board in 2005, said trustees were stunned when the program they spent months planning had to be scuttled after demand suddenly evaporated.
“It was very disappointing for me at the time,” said Denesiuk, who did not stand for re-election in 2011.
“We didn’t do a post-mortem,” she continued, but “some thought the location should have been more central.”
According to a feasibility study prepared in November 2004, Queen’s Park was the only school in the district that had space for the two new classes.
The study mentioned, however, that the French program “would (have changed) the sociology of Queen’s Park significantly.”
It noted the school had “placed particular emphasis on compensatory programs to try to ensure as many students as possible achieved at grade expectations.” And further, “effort would have to be made to ensure the integration of the school year and to ensure that the distinct needs of both the English track and EFI students and parents are met.”
Since 2005, district-wide enrolment has dropped by about 900 students to 6,200 this year, and no schools have closed during that span, so it’s unlikely a lack of classroom space would be an issue this time around.
The feasibility study also determined it would have taken about $20,000 to get the two new classrooms up and running, but federal grants would have only covered half that amount. And with less than full classrooms, the new French program would have siphoned money from regular instruction budgets, which Denesiuk said made her uneasy.
“We couldn’t take from regular programming in order to fund the French immersion,” she said. “We didn’t feel that that was right… to begin to offer the program at the expense of other students in the district. It had to be self-sustaining.”
At the school board’s meeting two weeks ago, assistant superintendent Dave Burgoyne said he expected regular school funding plus federal grants for French language education would probably cover the start-up costs this time around.
Denesiuk suggested the school board should work harder this time to make sure early French immersion appeals to as many parents as possible to ensure it gets enough kids to make the program go. One thing working against it, she said, is a perception of elitism attached to French immersion.
“I think in my view the board’s doing a good thing,” Denesiuk said, “but it has to continue to make sure that that stigma is removed and all students have equal access to early immersion.”
Trustees at their last meeting also heard from the B.C.-Yukon chapter of Canadian Parents for French. Executive director Glyn Lewis told the board French immersion enrolment has grown in B.C. in each of the past 14 years
“We really do believe it’s an enrichment of the students. In a bilingual country it’s going to create opportunities east and west for them,” Lewis said.
The CPF is working with the school board as it prepares its newest feasibility study on French immersion. A final report is due back to the board in the spring for a decision. The new program, if approved, would begin in September 2014.
Wednesday’s meeting at Uplands Elementary begins at 7 p.m. Another meeting goes Thursday at 7 p.m. at Giant’s Head Elementary in Summerland.
Okanagan Skaha considers younger start for French Immersion
By Joe Fries – Penticton Western News
Published: October 02, 2012 4:00 PM
Updated: October 02, 2012 4:02 PM
Okanagan Skaha School District trustees on Monday voted to begin a feasibility study of an early French immersion program that would accept students in kindergarten or Grade 1. At present, only a late-entry model is available that takes kids in Grade 6.
“We just felt that it had been a few years since we looked at it, and perhaps it’s time to look at the possibility again,” said Ginny Manning, who chairs the school board.
About 10 per cent of the district’s total head count, 668 students, are in the French immersion stream at four schools in Summerland and Penticton, according to figures provided to the board. Manning said the program has expanded from a single Grade 6 class at KVR Middle School to four this year.
The president of the Okanagan Skaha chapter of Canadian Parents for French said it will be crucial for parents to get involved in the upcoming round of public consultation on the feasibility study.“We can advocate until we’re blue in the face, but unless the parents are behind us and unless there is a demand, it’s not going to happen,” said Mona Smythe. She said the popularity of French immersion has grown as more parents see how bilingualism can open up better job prospects for their kids.
“Like it our lump it, we are a bilingual country, and we need to embrace it from coast to coast. If the kids are going to have employment opportunities, they need to be bilingual,” Smythe said.“If you want the kids to have the best of opportunities, they need to have the best of education,”
At the moment, she continued, the number of French immersion students is limited here by the number of classes offered, with new students selected through a lottery. That means the program is “not available to everyone,” Smythe said, “and that has always been an issue for us.”
Glyn Lewis, executive director of the B.C.-Yukon chapter of Canadian Parents for French, said enrolment in such programs has grown provincewide for 14 consecutive years. So the appetite for expansion “is not something that’s unique to Penticton.” According to Lewis, about two-thirds of B.C. school districts now offer French immersion classes, and both early and late programming is available in Kelowna, Vernon and Salmon Arm. The feasibility study for an early-entry French immersion program in the Okanagan Skaha School District will kick off with public consultation this fall, and the board will also strike a new committee to explore the idea with parent advisory committees and unions.
A report is due back to the board next spring. If trustees agree to establish the new program, planning would take place during the 2013-14 school year, with the program expected to start in September 2014. Secretary-treasurer Ron Shongrunden was unable to say what program start-up might cost, but said the feasibility study should include an estimate.