By: Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Cree Language Kindergarten program at John Diefenbaker School is looking at expanding next year.

Saskatchewan Rivers education director Robert Bratvold said the program will grow to include pre-Kindergarten and possibly Grade 2, starting in the 2022-23 school year. The program currently serves students in Kindgergarten and Grade 1

“It’s an exciting opportunity to add (cree language instruction) to pre-K,” Bratvold said. “We know that the following year we will likely add Grade 3, and then we will do some assessment.

Bratvold made the announcement during the Director’s Update on Monday.

He said the program will not develop fluent Cree speakers by the time students enter Grade 3, since it’s not strictly a Cree immersion program. However, he said it will build a strong Cree cultural foundation and conversational ability.

“We want to make sure that we have got a strong early years Cree Language program,” Bratvold said. “Then we will look if we can manage or expand  or grow it in other ways after that.”

In 2020-21, Diefenbaker School had 15 students enrolled in the program. That expanded to 36 this school year, according to the division’s enrolment update. Those numbers are accurate as of Sept. 30.

Diefenbaker is the only elementary school in the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division offering a Cree language program.

(PHOTO: A Google photo of John Diefenbaker school in Prince Albert)