Sandy Hill Elementary School in Abbotsford. Photo courtesy Abbotsford School District

Sandy Hill Elementary School in Abbotsford. Photo courtesy Abbotsford School District

Teacher shortage leaves Abbotsford French immersion class learning in English

Concerned parents seek to speak to school board, advocate for solutions for teacher shortage

A group of Abbotsford parents is calling for change from the school district and provincial government as their French immersion children are being taught in English due to a lack of teachers.

Darcy Hanover’s Grade 4 daughter is enrolled in French immersion at Sandy Hill Elementary School, but the teacher has left to accept a job offer in Chilliwack, where she lives.

“We’re having no luck finding replacements, so currently our children are being taught in English, which is not what we signed up for when we’re French immersion,” Hanover said.

RELATED: Abbotsford teachers call out ‘chronic underfunding’ in classrooms

As the province and B.C. Teachers’ Federation gear up for collective agreement negotiations, Hanover said she hopes to see the school board advocate for better pay for teachers, with few provinces paying teachers less than B.C.

But school board chair Shirley Wilson said the board typically hasn’t sent letters to advocate issues to the B.C. government

“They could, but we’ve not typically done that ever in the past, because that’s only one of our employee groups. We have several employee groups,” Wilson said.

RELATED: Abbotsford schools short 54 teachers, including 23 full-time

Hanover and nine other parents from the class are hoping to speak as a delegation at the next school board meeting on Nov. 13 to bring the issue to the school board.

“We’re just a group of concerned parents who are trying to find any way to save this school year for our children, because the message we’re getting form the leadership is that ‘take what you’ve got. Be grateful to have any teacher and the kids can make it up in later years,’” Hanover said. “Which we don’t find an acceptable message to send to nine-year-olds.”

While some students enter French immersion from kindergarten, Wilson said others don’t start until Grade 6.

“All of those kids end up in the same classrooms in Grade 8. They merge because their quality of instruction has been such that they can all learn at the same level at that point,” Wilson said.

RELATED: BCTF wins grievance over teacher shortage in public schools

But Hanover wasn’t convinced that the students’ French won’t go unaffected.

“They talk about the slide that happens over summertime, which is why they’ve every now and then, the idea of full-year school comes up. That’s just two months. What would 12 months do for that backslide?” she said.

“Next year, they’ll be in Grade 5, and that Grade 5 teacher will be having to try to teach two years worth of French. … It’s not like there’s extra resources to make it up next year. We’ve strapped all of our EAs and learning assistants.”

The group of parents suggested the school rotate staff through different classes so each class gets regular exposure to English learning, but Hanover said the school district’s response was not supportive, because it could affect the education of numerous classes, rather than just one.

Abbotsford School District spokesperson Kayla Stuckart said in an email that the district has been working to attract French teachers, including mentorship, prioritizing, creating a full-time recruitment position and financial incentives for relocation.

“Our primary focus during this interim period is to ensure the requirements of the BC curriculum are being met. As such, we have a qualified teacher in the classroom supporting continued student learning in English. We are also adapting to ensure that students are still getting continued exposure to the French language,” Stuckart said.

That includes “team-teaching” three days a week for French reading and writing, joint field trip and other events with other French immersion classes, a buddy program between French immersion secondary and elementary students and bringing in fourth-year French university students as volunteers.

Report an error or send us your tips, photos and video.

Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

Send Dustin an email.
Like the Abbotsford News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The City of Surrey is currently working through the initial phase for a park that’ll be built at 72 Avenue and 191 Street in Clayton. (Image via City of Surrey)
New park to be built in Clayton Heights

City of Surrey asking for feedback from Clayton residents

A Transit Police officer and another driver were injured on Nov. 4 in a traffic crash while the officer was responding to another officers call for help catching a man who escaped custody. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Police watchdog investigating Surrey crash that injured transit cop, another driver

Crash happened 11 p.m. Nov. 4, at 128th Street and 93rd Avenue in Cedar Hills

Members of the community participate in the 7th annual Coldest Night of the Year event Feb. 22, 2020. This year’s event will have a virtual aspect to it because of COVID, says organizer Courtenay van den Boogaard. (Photo Submitted: Amanda Grewall)
Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser to support Cloverdale Community Kitchen

Annual events raises funds to help homeless community

Music therapist Felicia Wall in the music room at Phoenix Society in Surrey. (submitted photo)
Eclectic album showcases songs recorded by Surrey residents in recovery

Project at Phoenix Society took about six months to complete, with help of music therapist

Surrey RCMP is looking for witnesses and video after a fatal crash in Newton on Christmas Day 2020. Police say the driver left the scene before officers arrived at the 6700-block of King George Boulevard. (Photo: Curtis Kreklau)
Surrey RCMP seeking witnesses, video of fatal Christmas Day crash

Woman was killed in the 6700-block of King George Boulevard

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Forestry companies in B.C. agree to abide by the cedar protocols based on traditional laws of the First Nation members of the Nanwakolas Council. (Photo courtesy, Nanwakolas Council)
Landmark deal sees B.C. forest firms treat big cedars like a First Nation would

Western Forest Products, Interfor among companies to adapt declaration drafted by Nanwakolas Council

The Fraser Valley Regional Library board of directors recently finalized its budget. (Black Press Media files)
Fraser Valley Regional Library budget not enough to keep up with booming population

Almost $5 million of books, DVDs, and ebooks to be purchased in 2021

Most Read