A group of Grade 11 Portage Collegiate Institute (PCI) French Immersion students are waiting on a decision from the Portage la Prairie School Division following a proposed name change at a School Board meeting last week.

Why the proposed name change? Students told school board trustees they feel they need to be represented more with the PCI name, as right now, there is no recognition of the French program.

The students, alongside PCI French Immersion Vice-Principal, Patrick Lacroix, gave a ten-minute presentation to the school board outlining their case, in which they identified that École Arthur Meighen, an elementary school within the division, highlights their French Immersion program in their name, while the high school that takes those students does not. 

To better build their case for a name change, students conducted three surveys over three days to collect comments and opinions about creating a bilingual name for the school. 

68.6 percent of French students were in favour of the name change. English students surveyed were 67.2 percent opposed to the name change. At the same time, teachers were 55.4 per cent in favour of the name change.

PCI may not reflect their French Immersion program based on the school's title, but, Lacroix pointed to the Government of Manitoba's website, which lists all Immersion schools in the province. On the list, PCI was named  "Institut collégial Portage."

Zachary Caners was a part of the presentation and said that the school board should consider changing the name as he thinks it would help recruit and keep French Immersion teachers.

"We should change our name because then it shows that we actually have a French Immersion program," he continues. "I think they (the school division) will listen to us. They really need French teachers. We're very short on French teachers, and it helps give them a better look."

File Photo.Grade 11 student, Zachary Caners.

Immersion student Stephanie Rosset told PortageOnline she hopes the board listens and accepts a name change.

"I think we proved our point pretty well with why it should change. So yeah, I think they're going to be for it, and really support us." 

File Photo.Grade 11 student, Stephanie Rosset.

Lacroix says he is not sure where things will go from here. However, he is incredibly proud of his students' efforts.

"They handled themselves really well, they looked really professional and organized, and they put together a really nice presentation." 

School board chair Marie Hélène Hoggarth thanked students for their hard work after the presentation.

"You've given us a lot of food for thought," Hoggarth said with a smile. 

Students noted during the presentation that they thought getting a dual language diploma from a school that doesn't recognize their own French program in the name was unfair.

The division has given no timeline regarding a name change decision. 

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