'A little bit dumbfounded': Family questions why siblings can’t be together at same French immersion school

With limited spaces in French immersion programs, the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) is finding itself having to remind families there’s not enough room for everyone.

Middlesex Centre parent Mike Engelhardt and his family found out the hard way.

“We were a little bit dumbfounded,” said Engelhardt. “You would think that keeping five siblings together in one school would make the most logical sense.”

He told CTV News the family was upset to learn their youngest, four-year-old Dylan, would not be able to attend Louise Arbour French Immersion School when she enters junior kindergarten in September — even though all four older siblings already attend.

Instead, she’ll have to go to Wilberforce Elementary in Lucan, Ont. The two schools are located in opposite directions, 27 kilometres apart.

He’s worried about the logistics of having to travel back and forth, but most importantly about Dylan’s emotional well-being.

“Dylan has been a product of COVID, of these lockdowns for the last two years, so she's not going to have the benefit of having those relationships, as a result of having to go to a different school.”

It's a lesson in disappointment for some families who aren't aware the school board does not guarantee admission to French immersion for children with siblings already attending.

The school board said those who apply before the February deadline are chosen by random selection.

Those who don’t win the so-called lottery are placed on a waiting list.

TVDSB Acting Human Rights and Equity Advisor Andrea Marlowe said they’re trying to make access equitable for everyone.

“We need to have a fair process, and we need to ensure that each of our students has an opportunity to attend a program that we offer in our French Immersion schools, or in any environment,” said Marlowe.

As for the Engelhardt family, they’ve contacted the school ombudsman, and their case is under review.