EMSB touts French initiatives in hopes of boosting enrollment: ‘Best of both worlds’

“The English-speaking community is not unilingual,” says Joe Ortona, EMSB chair. On the even of Kindergarten Registration Week, the English Montreal School Board highlighting its French offerings: second-language, bilingual, and immersion programs.

By News Staff

A news conference – en français – was held Tuesday at Dante School in St-Leonard to highlight the English Montreal School Board’s (EMSB) French offerings, which include second-language, bilingual and immersion programs.

This comes on the eve of Kindergarten Registration Week, when the EMSB kicks off a month of celebrating Quebec francophone culture in schools with a new campaign entitled “À la CSEM, on cultive le français… jour après jour!”

Joe Ortona, chair of the EMSB, said it’s important to show parents, who have a choice of where to enroll their kids, that they can have the “best of both worlds” in English schools.

French culture gets integrated into the curriculum as early as kindergarten through fine arts, music, drama and more.

Press conference for “À la CSEM, on cultive le français… jour après jour!” at Dante Elementary in St-Leonard, Jan. 9, 2024. (Martin Daigle, CityNews)

“Kindergarten registration is coming up. And we want to show people that the English-speaking community can be fully bilingual if they register their kids in our public schools,” Ortona said.

“We want to highlight the great education that you can get in an English public system. And we’re very proud of our French programs. We’re proud that our students learn French and that they learn it well and that they graduate out of our system being fully bilingual. So this is nothing to do with the government or the CAQ. This is completely an EMSB initiative.”

Joe Ortona, Chair of EMSB, at Dante Elementary school Jan. 9, 2024. (Martin Daigle, CityNews)

EMSB is looking to boost enrollment at its schools – and hoping this initiative contributes to that goal.

“We have some excellent schools,” said Ortona. “And pretty much every neighbourhood in Montreal has a local English public school that offers very diverse and great programs. And we obviously want people to register.

“We want to show people that the English-speaking community is not unilingual, that we actually speak French well and that it’s understood and that people can pursue their post-secondary education in French if they so choose.”

Ortona says enrollment has stabilized “over the last couple of years.”

“But there is still, from one year to another, a decline in the last two years after an uptake of a few hundred students for a couple of years,” he said. “So it seems to have stabilized, it goes up and then it goes down, and we’re hoping it can go up and stay that way.”

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