The Carlington Summit
by David Darwin.

The Ottawa-Carleton Catholic School Board (OCCSB) is reviewing how the French as a Second Language (FSL) program is delivered in its schools. The amalgamation of the former Ottawa and Carleton Boards as well as changes in Ministry of Education policy regarding FSL have necessitated an examination of how to best meet the needs of students.

A staff report, outlining how the French as a Second Language program is delivered in the schools, has been submitted to the Board of Trustees. The report, which is a first step in the review process, contains a wealth of information on all aspects of the FSL review. It also contains several possible options for the community and Board to consider as decisions are made in the delivery of FSL programs. The report is available to staff, parents and the wider Ottawa-Carleton Catholic community (at the Board offices or on the web site at http://www.occdsb.on.ca/publication/FSL_Report.pdf).

Information meetings were held in October as part of the consultation process and additional reports will follow the release of this report. It is anticipated that the Board will make decisions on the FSL matter at the beginning of 2001.

Core, Extended or Immersion

The approach taken towards FSL in the OCCSB varies considerably. Since the amalgamation of the two Boards in January 1998, schools in both sectors have continued to deliver Core, Extended and Immersion programs consistent with former practices. The essence of the program in Ottawa schools was the 50-50 program from senior Kindergarten to Grade 6. In the senior grades (7-OAC) the option of Core or continued 50-50 was offered. In Carleton schools, a 50-50 program started in both Kindergarten levels, but changed to an Extended 25% French for Grades 1-6. In the senior grades students could choose between Core, Extended (25%) or Immersion (75%).

The FSL review report offers five options and their implications for the future delivery of French as a Second Language programs in the OCCSB.

The information provided for each option includes: a chart with the number of minutes for each program option, the allocation of staffing for a typical small, medium and large Carleton sector schools, as well as the staffing allocation for the proposed organization based on the Ottawa sector staffing factor. In addition, the implications related to the Ministry of Education requirements, staffing and timetabling, resources and curriculum delivery, students with special needs, students learning English as a Second Language, financial and other implications are presented.

Extensive public consultation will be held until February 2001. After public input has been received, a final report with a series of recommendations will be presented to the Board in March 2001. The Board will then make its final decision, with implementation to begin in the 2001-2002 school year. Implementation will be phased in, so students and teachers will have an opportunity to adapt. The report notes there are strong views from stakeholders (parents, educators and students) regarding FSL. According to the report, “There is strong support for starting French as a Second Language instruction in Kindergarten. There is a strong preference from all groups for Mathematics and Science instruction in English. A single-track option is viewed as limiting choices and as not meeting the needs of all students.

Split grades, insufficient resources, and inconsistent availability of remedial assistance were recognized as barriers to the successful delivery of FSL programs. Strong agreement exists across all groups for the community school concept.”

Given the importance many parents place on the need for French language skills in Ottawa's bilingual working environment and the difficulties some students experience with learning in an immersion environment, this review process is vitally important to everyone. Parents with children in a Catholic school are being encouraged to get involved with their school council to learn more about the review and to ensure their viewpoints are heard.

The school board elections now underway also provide a wonderful opportunity to sound out trustee candidates on their views regarding the FSL program. The trustees elected will be making the final decision, a decision which will have a significant impact on your child's education.

Board implements Safe Schools Act

Trustees were recently informed the implementation of the Ontario government's recently passed Safe Schools Act, 2000 has begun in the Board. Regulations governing the Code of Conduct, new opening or closing exercises in the classroom and access to school premises are in effect this fall.

Under the Code of Conduct, clear Standards of Behaviour have been implemented. With respect to the mandatory consequences enacted by the government, the Board's current Safe Schools Policy will remain in effect until it is revised or revoked.

The Standards of Behaviour state that all school members must:

Regarding physical safety, the Standards of Behaviour state that all school members must:

The opening and closing exercises regulation requires the singing of the national anthem. It also requires students to recite the Canadian Oath of Citizenship if principals, in consultation with Catholic School Councils, determine the pledge should be recited.

The access to school premises regulation specifies who is permitted to be on school premises on any day or at any time. People who are on school premises without authorization can be charged by police under the Education Act.