SUDBURY -- The Ontario government is trying to address a shortage of French teachers across the province.

A Ministry of Education news release said the province is taking part in various initiatives, including career fairs and professional development working groups, to address the problem.

"Our government is committed to protecting and promoting French language," said Education Minister Stephen Lecce in a statement.

The provincial government has also partnered with Laurentian University to create a new hybrid model, to entice students and give them more options on how to complete their education, through online modules and concurrent education courses.

Rising popularity of French education has made a bad situation worse, leaving many school boards scrambling, particularly during a pandemic.

Marc Gauthier, director of education for the French public school board, has been forced to deal with the shortage first-hand for years now. He said this is a good news announcement.

Getting worse

"In the past five years, we have been hiring unqualified teachers year-after-year, and especially with the pandemic, it just made the matter worse," Gauthier said.

Gauthier said he knows of one school board that has a shortage of at least 27 high school teachers. Combined with having to find online teachers while keeping the supply pool full, has created significant challenges for some school boards.

"There has been a need in Ontario, especially since the program went from one to two years at university, to qualify teachers," he said.

Laurentian University's Ginette Roberge said they're hoping to address that as part of their new hybrid program.

"We just welcomed our first cohort for both hybrid and concurrent, so the difference is before, if you wanted to be a qualified teacher in French at Laurentian, you had to come to Laurentian for two years face-to-face," said Roberge, a professor and the director of the French school of education at Laurentian. "Now from your first year of university, you can start taking education courses or you can take these two years entirely online."

There are only two schools in the province that offer French certification, one being Laurentian and the other is the University of Ottawa.

Roberge said enrolment was far greater than they expected and she's hopeful the changes will make an impact, although maybe not right away.

Burning need

Forty students enrolled for their first year and school officials had been expecting about 10.

"There is a burning need definitely, I see it both as a parent and as a teacher educator, we get emails from school boards regularly saying we have multiple opportunities to do supply teaching if you're interested," said Roberge.

CTV News reached out to the local union president of AEFO for her thoughts who referred our request to the provincial body.

The union's president Anne Vinet-Roy sent the following statement:

"AEFO welcomes any concrete action to increase the number of qualified teachers to teach French. The effort is commendable and a step in the right direction. However, AEFO has been urging the government for several years to invest in the increase of French-language teachers. Once again, the government chose to ignore our recommendations acting at the last minute and probably too little, too late"