A recent study shows French Immersion enrollment is on the rise province-wide while numbers in the South Okanagan have remained steady.

The report released by the Canadian Parents for French British Columbia and Yukon shows School District 67’s enrollment rate for the French Immersion program took a slight dip from 654 students to 650 for the 2018-2019 year.

“You’re bucking the trend of the provincial growth, which isn’t good. Usually it means it’s a symptom of a district limiting access to the program,” said Glyn Lewis, the executive director.

Enrollment in French immersion province-wide was just shy of 54,000 for 2018-2019, a number Lewis says has come from increased demand and interest.

“How many parents are on waiting lists, or are unable to access the program (in School District 67)?” said Lewis, explaining a district which is unable to meet the demand could see a decline in numbers.

But School District 67 superintendent Wendy Hyer said a waitlist – currently with seven students on it -- wouldn’t cause numbers to decline.

“If we get enough students for another division we have run the division,” she explained via email. “One year we had a very large Grade 5 class and a lot of demand … so another division was offered. From a budget perspective, we cannot run a division for (seven) students – these are the decisions we make at middle and secondary schools every year. Programs that show limited enrolment run the risk of not being offered due to budget constraints.”

Hyer also explained the introduction of a new program at Skaha Lake Middle School – the Hockey Skills Program – could be one reason why students are choosing to skip French Immersion at KVR.