As the UGDSB Trustees prepare to review a staff report on how to implement a cap for FI enrolment, parents in the Old University neighbourhood have been ramping up their propaganda so that their children are provided with special access to the program.
All families that are hoping to participate in French Immersion are fearful of what a cap could mean for them. Parents want the best for their children, and for some of us that includes a French education. All concerned are disappointed that a cap is necessary to address the lack of qualified teachers with French qualifications, but after over a year of consultations and public information sessions, it is the most viable solution. It will cause the least disruption board wide, as families who have experienced changing boundary lines can attest. Still, that is little comfort as anxious families await details on the process and worry about their child’s education.
For some parents, the argument that everyone should have access to a French education within a bilingual country has changed to “me first” as the decision on access approaches. Grasping at straws arguments have included tax dollars for transportation, healthy lifestyles, and community cohesion. But behind the smoke and mirrors, the parents in the Old University area are arguing that their children should be granted special access to a highly desired program based on their home addresses. Amy Newman (in Parents Worry What Future Holds as French Immersion Policy is Developed, Guelph Today, Sept 28) states that John McCrae is one of the reasons her family moved to the neighbourhood. An expensive neighbourhood. Should French Immersion only be accessible to people who can afford to live in these neighbourhoods?
If access was limited to people within walking distance, that would exclude the majority of students in the board, which reaches far outside of Guelph. The walkability distance for primary students is 1.6 km. If you live further away from your home school, you can be bussed. Many families are outside of the walking distance of both French and English stream schools. Some people probably have a driveway longer than Martha Van Berkel’s (in Parents Worry What Future Holds as French Immersion Policy is Developed, Guelph Today, Sept 28) walk to John McCrae. But that should not exclude them from having equal access to the French program.
It is disappointing that a cap will be imposed and that the decision will likely be based on a lottery, but equal access to the program must be maintained. The loud and late complaints of the parents in walking distance of John McCrae does not allow them to skip the line and manipulate the process that the rest of us will be required to follow. The reality of single stream schools is that some people who live near one school may be bussed to another. And it won’t be “across town” for them, but 2.1 km to Priority Park, the English stream school whose catchment includes the Old University area. So let’s calm the rhetoric and allow our elected officials to make a decision that is fair and equitable for everyone.