Jack Hulland Elementary School sent a letter to parents around the beginning of October, stating that French language would no longer be used during the Physical Education classes for primary students after a complaint from a parent. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Pourquoi?: Parents left wondering after Jack Hulland Elementary School cancels primary-level classes in French

Gym classes are now being taught entirely in English

Parents of primary students at Jack Hulland Elementary School have been left with questions after French lessons available to the younger students were cancelled, at least for the time being.

Sarah Vigneau, a mother to a Grade 2 student at the school, said she received a letter from the school near the beginning of the month, stating that “in light of the emergence of a parental concern with this ongoing approach to instruction, a decision has been made to stop the use of French in Physical Education classes from Monday, Oct. 7 to Friday, Oct. 18 inclusive.”

The letter goes on to note there will be a meeting that will include the concerned parent, school council, school administration and the Department of Education to determine if any French instruction will be available for primary students.

“A decision will be made on or before 18th Oct. as to how to move forward with this aspect of our programming.”

That date has come and gone and students are still not learning French in their gym classes.

For Vigneau, and other parents she has spoken to, that raises a long list of concerns and questions she hasn’t been able to get answers to.

As she pointed out, the French instruction in the gym classes is pretty basic, but allows students to become familiar with the language before formal instruction begins in later grades.

“It’s not a huge part of the day,” Vigneau said.

Vigneau said it will be more difficult for students when they start learning French in formal classes without having the gym class as a primer.

According to the letter, the school decided in 2004 to end formal French classes to primary students and instead “begin the use of instruction partially in French for some primary physical education classes at the school dependent on the French skill level of the teacher.”

Through that, students learned basic greetings, basic actions, numbers and colours in French with the intention of enhancing the development of students’ linguistic abilities while also providing the physical education curriculum.

Vigneau said ideally she would like to see more French instruction at the school for primary students, but the gym class at least provided some basics a few times a week.

The situation leaves her wondering how one complaint can stop the primary French programming for all.

“There’s no explanation as to why they stopped it,” she said.

The gym classes have continued, but are being delivered entirely in English.

Vigneau said she has contacted the school and was told to get in touch with school council.

It was then she was informed the meeting was being rescheduled. As of Oct. 23, to Vigneau’s knowledge, it had not happened.

She was also told the meeting would not be open to other parents. No reason was given.

Speaking with other parents about the situation, she said a lot are confused and wondering why they would pull the French language instruction entirely.

Department of Education spokesperson Jason Mackey said the complaint was centered around instruction in the physical education class “that resulted in a lack of access to core physical education for a student.”

He went on to note that core French curriculum begins in Grade 5 except in French Immersion and Intensive French programs.

“The school made a temporary change to allow for the school and school council to work with the parent through the dispute resolution process,” Mackey said. The meeting is part of the dispute resolution process between the parent, school council chair, school administration and superintendent.

Because it is part of the dispute resolution process between those who raised the concern, the school and school council the meeting is closed to others.

Questioned whether there are alternative plans to allow for French instruction to continue for primary students at Jack Hulland, Mackey replied: “The Department of Education supports schools in offering a diverse and inclusive education. We provide support to school communities to work through these types of issues.

“In this case, we are sharing more information about programming requirements, guidelines and options to meet the diverse needs of the students at the school to support these conversations at the school level as they work through the dispute resolution process established by their School Council for their school community.”

Parents are encouraged to bring concerns forward to their school or school councils, he said.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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