Ladysmith French program draws crowd

True and hardy fans camp out for coveted concert tickets or the newest gadget, sleeping on rickety lawn chairs and staying warm with well-worn fleece ­­— but some dedicated parents do this not for the joy of loud music and shiny objects, but for their children’s education.“French Immersion is a popular program,” said Ecole Davis Road Elementary School principal, Doug English.March 1 marked the beginning of a two-week registration window for the French-language program in School District 68.“We had people lining up,” English said, about the night before. “When I left at 4 p.m. one lady was there and as the night went on there was close to 10.”Ecole Davis had only 10 spots available after accounting for sibling registration. Those children with an older brother or sister already enrolled in French Immersion get first dibs.“There’s limited entry because French Immersion is a district program and there’s no catchment,” explained Karen Fediuk, parent advisory council chair for the school.“There’s a core group of parents who have decided they want this opportunity for their children, so now they’re lining up.”The program is first come, first served, said English.To get into the program, you have to live within the district, show up and hope they have a space, Fediuk said.French Immersion has been a School District 68 program since 1977 and is available only by enrolling in Kindergarten or Grade 1.“Language development starts at a young age and if they come in at Grade 2, they miss enough that it’s not a benefit to them,” English said.Three of the four schools offering the program were already full by press time, said English.“In Nanaimo, parents have the choice between three schools, it’s tougher for our parents,” he said.So those parents wanting their children to attend Ladysmith’s only French language school line up overnight, braving the cold and the next-day sore backs and stiff necks.“I believe parents think their kids are getting a dual education,” he said of the popularity of the program and the dedication shown. “They want more opportunities for them when they graduate.”