A cap has been placed on French immersion enrolment numbers at the Peel District School Board, and students will have to enter a lottery to win a place in the coveted program.
Trustees voted unanimously in favour of the changes at a board meeting late Tuesday, much to the disappointment of parents.
"We were unhappy with the outcome of the vote," said Betty Gormley, executive directive of the Ontario branch of Canadian Parents for French.
Parents had concerns that all students should have access to the program, and that a lottery was too random for such an important decision. They won a small victory in that the board amended its original motion to allow for students with siblings in the program to be grandfathered into a spot.
School boards across Ontario have been struggling to meet growing demand for French immersion programs. Peel has seen the proportion of students in that program at the Grade 1 level climb from 9.4 per cent in 2001 to 25.4 per cent this fall.
They have struggled to find qualified French-speaking teachers to fill their classrooms, and space has been a problem in Peel as well, where the student population is growing at about 1 per cent a year.
Ms. Gormley said the situation is unique enough at Peel that she isn't worried other school boards will take similar measures. Her group is working with other partners in education to develop better French-speaking teacher recruitment, including casting a wider net geography and improving retention rates.