More language programs coming to Surrey schools in fall

New classes at Cougar Creek Elementary and possibly T.E. Scott; District will also look at moving French programs at crowded schools.

A new early French immersion (FI) program will start at Cougar Creek Elementary in the fall, and trustees hope to establish another Punjabi language program in Surrey in the coming school year.

The addition of the French program is, in part, in response to long waiting lists for parents wishing to enrol their children in FI in kindergarten.

The Cougar Creek program, located at 12236 70A Ave., will mean seven of Surrey’s 101 elementary schools now offer early French immersion. Parents with kids on existing wait lists will be contacted first for possible registration.

The program addition is one of several recommendations made in a Surrey School District staff report recently endorsed by Surrey Board of Education trustees. The Long Range Facilities and Education Plan, available to view at http://bit.ly/1dmdel3, contains more than 40 wide-ranging proposals regarding the district’s future direction and program and facility priorities.

Extensive public consultations on choice programs earlier this year showed a public desire to expand so-called ‘choice’ program expansion, particularly French Immersion.

“Our board heard loud and clear our parents value the quality and variety of our programs of choice, and they want more,” said board chairperson Shawn Wilson. “While we continue to be challenged for space because of ongoing growth, trustees support staff’s recommendations to find ways to meet the widespread desire for these programs.”

Subject to community consultations,  trustees also hope to give the go-ahead to a new Punjabi language program at T.E. Scott Elementary (7079 148 St.) that would begin in September.

A recent survey of Grade 4 parents at 10 Surrey elementary schools with the highest proportion of Punjabi-speaking families indicated more than 30 families would register their child for a Punjabi language class in Grade 5 if one was available.

Punjabi is already offered at three elementary schools (Beaver Creek, Newton and Strawberry Hill) and two high schools (Princess Margaret and Tamanawis).

Trustees have also requested district staff review policies regarding programs of choice and consult parents about whether registration priority for siblings should be modified.

Currently, children on wait lists with siblings already in programs get priority over others. As an example of how that could affect the registration process, the district said of the 250 on the wait list for Fine Arts program, most of the new spaces available each year are filled by siblings.

Trustees already altered the registration process for some programs this year, changing it from a one-day, first-come-first-served, phone-in session to a three-week online application process where applicants are chosen by random draw.

Another change on the horizon is the possibility of moving a couple of current French immersion programs that are at crowded schools.

District staff say that when the new high school in the North Clayton area opens – hopefully sometime in 2017-2018 – approximately 600 students will need to be relocated from overflowing Lord Tweedsmuir (LT) Secondary, which has 2,000 students and has been on an double-bell schedule for five years. One option would be to move the French Immersion program at LT to the new high school. The district hopes to consult with the school community during the coming year to explore options.

The district will also examine the possibility of relocating the FI program that’s presently at Woodward Hill Elementary. Because the Sullivan area is growing rapidly, schools in the area are pressed for space, with the biggest impact felt at Woodward Hill.