By Lorene Keitch
A small but committed group of local parents want to see a francophone school open up in the Valley.
Francophone Public school board (Conseil scolaire francophone) officials came to Invermere last week to discuss the possibility of opening a francophone school here (where students are educated completely in French). The representatives talked about the next steps for the local francophone group, what criteria potential students need to meet, and how the francophone school model has flourished in other, similar communities.
Revelstoke, Nelson and Fernie are among the southeastern B.C. communities that have francophone schools. Revelstoke opened a francophone school in 2012 with about 12 students. Now, they are up to approximately 58 students and anticipate an enrolment of 85 within the next three years, confirms School of Glaciers Revelstoke Director Hugo Desnoyers.
When asked how having a francophone school in the community impacted his decision to live in Revelstoke, Mr. Desnoyers said it was essential.
“We want to have kids, but I would not live somewhere where there’s no francophone school,” stated Mr. Desnoyers. “It wouldn’t be an option of a place to live. You want your kids to have your heritage.”
Here in Invermere, local parents are just starting the process. The next step is for them to continue gathering names of families who qualify and have an interest in putting their children in a francophone school.
Parent Sophie Timmermans was one of the 15 or so attendees at the meeting. She is looking to the future for her 15-month old child and wants to ensure she gets the foundation of a French language built in early.
“We’re not in competition with any English school,” commented Ms. Timmermans. “I love all the people and I love everything about my life here … But French is a part of me. It is important to me because it is my background.”
With both her and her husband raised in francophone homes, they want their child to grow up being able to talk to relatives back in Belgium, to be able to speak the language fluently and have the solid written knowledge of their native tongue.
Ms. Timmermans said of her francophone friends who have older children, they find it a struggle to teach their children French at home when English is spoken everywhere else in their lives.
“Little kids I know here, even though they speak French at home, by going to daycare, the grocery store, living in this town – English comes first for them,” she commented. “I think the francophone school will help.”
Ms. Timmermans remarked that Revelstoke is a great example of what could happen here.
“I think we can have at least 12 children on that list, and then they could maybe open a school to start kindergarten and grades 1 and 2,” she described. “If the school is open, it will attract more families and will be a plus for the town.”
For a child to be admitted to a school run by the Conseil scolaire francophone board, the parents need to be Canadians of Francophone origin, or if the parents received their primary school instruction in Canada in French (not including French immersion), or their children have received or are receiving primary or secondary school instruction in French (not including French immersion), or if one of the parents is an immigrant who, if they were a Canadian citizen, would be a right holder under section 23 of the Charter. If you are interested in learning more about an Invermere francophone school, or to put your children’s names on a potential school list, email ecolefrancophoneinvermere.gmail.com. For more information on the Conseil scolaire francophone, visit https://www.csf.bc.ca/en/.