Welcome To
Acadia Broadcasting NewsThe Latest and Greatest ContentYour Trusted Local Source


Image: Submitted/Town of Grand Bay-Westfield

French immersion changes spark frustration in Grand Bay-Westfield

By Brad Perry May 25, 2023 | 2:36 PM

Changes coming to French immersion programs in Grand Bay-Westfield are not sitting well with some in the community.

Mayor Brittany Merrifield made her position very clear during the town’s latest council meeting on Tuesday night.

“Last week, I was made aware of very troubling decisions … that will negatively affect our students and the growth and vitality of the town,” Merrifield said.

Starting with Grade 6 students in September, late French immersion students at River Valley Middle School will now have to attend Barnhill Memorial School in Saint John

Merrifield said that means some students will now have to travel more than 85 kilometres, round trip, each day.

“Young Grade 6 students travelling over 85 kilometres per day to attend school is not acceptable when there are local alternatives,” she said.

According to Merrifield, Barnhill Memorial is a “crowded school” operating at 79 per cent functional capacity, while River Valley Middle is operating at 43 per cent capacity.

The mayor questioned why the district would not send students from Barnhill Memorial to River Valley Middle instead.

“Why are schools in the city being prioritized as a better alternative?” said Merrifield. “People move to our town so that they could have their children educated here in our community.”

Changes will also see all early French immersion take place at Westfield School, beginning with Grade 1.

That means Grand Bay Primary and Inglewood schools will eventually stop having any French immersion students.

Merrifield said these decisions appear to have been made “in a vacuum” without any consultations with the community.

“We need to make it clear together as a community that our children at not numbers to be moved around an Excel spreadsheet until the totals look good,” she said.

We requested an interview with the superintendent of the Anglophone South School District but were instead provided with a written statement.

District spokesperson Jessica Hanlon said they share the community’s disappointment and understand the frustration.

“The decision to discontinue a program offered at a specific school is not taken lightly and is done only after much consideration and analysis of the facts and circumstances,” wrote Hanlon.

Hanlon said the district did not receive “sufficient registrations” to warrant a class, adding the level of interest in French immersion has declined over the past several years.

The district has received feedback from the community, she said, and is currently assessing its data and this feedback.

“As we have seen interest in these programs declining, putting their sustainability into question, we will be looking to work with the communities to problem solve these issues,” said Hanlon.

Council has invited Superintendent Derek O’Brien to attend their June 12 meeting to help them and parents better understand the decision.

It will also encourage the education department to consult with municipalities on significant operational changes affecting communities and to develop policies guiding superintendents when making these changes.

Council also agreed to support the School Task Force and the River Valley Home and School Committee’s efforts to reverse changes “and work towards a sustainable model for the delivery of French immersion programming.”


Leave a Reply