Many of the students at Cambridge come from traditionally marginalized communities, Bell says. That includes students who are racialized, come from low-income families, are learning English as a second language or have special education needs.
Bell is sponsoring a virtual community meeting Monday to discuss the future of the school and a proposal she hopes will boost enrolment: adding a French immersion program.
The English and French immersion programs are not supposed to be a way to stream kids academically as early as Grade 1, which is the start of early French immersion, but a report by the board in 2019 suggested there was inadvertent social streaming.
Elementary students in English-program schools like Cambridge PS are more likely to be newcomers learning English and to come from low-income families than kids in French-immersion schools, the report found.
The data also showed that students in English programs entering high school were less likely to take academic-level courses associated with going to university.
At Cambridge PS, enrolment has been declining for years, partly because students choose French immersion at other schools, Bell says. Last year, Cambridge had about 78 students.
“All the wealthy families leave to go to Devonshire or other schools,” Bell says. (Devonshire elementary in Hintonburg has an early French immersion program.)
Adding a middle French immersion program, which starts at Grade 4, may boost enrolment at Cambridge, Bell says. There is also evidence that, when you a French Immersion program is added to a school, the outcomes for all students rise, she says.
The board offers a “dual track” of English and middle French immersion programs at more than five other elementary schools.
Another wildcard is predicting the need for a school in the neighbourhood in the future.
Cambridge lost many students when families moved because affordable housing units were lost in the neighbourhood, including the conversion of several apartments to condos, Bell says.
However, there are thousands of new housing units being planned for the area, including some affordable housing, she says.
Parent Jo McCutcheon says it would be devastating to the neighbourhood to lose the school, which is also home to a drop-in program for preschoolers and programs sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa.
There has been a school on the site on Cambridge Street North since 1898, McCutcheon says.
“So families with means, and families that have a clear vision of the opportunities they want their children to have, take their children elsewhere.”
They have favoured an approach of congregating English programs in some schools in order to provide better programming for those children. However, that can result in the English program students being bused, which is unpopular with parents who want their children to attend neighbourhood schools.
When: Monday, March 22, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Zoom
This content was originally published here.