Two Iberia public schools to begin French immersion
BY: NATHAN SAMPEY, THE DAILY IBERIAN
For the first time, two Iberia Parish (Louisiana) public
schools will pilot French immersion classes at the kindergarten level
starting with the next school year. (2002-2003)
Daspit Road Elementary and North Lewis Street Elementary will host
the programs, which will be modeled after similar programs in Lafayette
Parish, according to Dale Henderson, assistant superintendent of
instruction of Iberia Parish schools. Approximately 60-70 openings should
be available the first year.
Participation in the programs will be completely voluntary on parents' part,
Henderson said. Both schools will begin
explaining the program to
parents during upcoming Kindergarten Roundup programs scheduled for
Wednesday. (Mar.6, 2002)
Over the past year, Daspit principal Kenneth Brantley and North Lewis
principal Anita Wiseman have both visited Lafayette Parish public schools
with French immersion classes, along with Henderson and other Iberia
school district officials. Both principals said they were impressed with
not only the programs themselves, but by how easily young children
embraced a new language.
"What really amazed me is they were writing in French, complete
sentences and paragraphs," said Brantley, whose school currently has a
French enrichment class of its own but nothing like French immersion.
Wiseman said she's already spoken with some parents about the program
to gauge interest. She said she expected more parents to approach her
about the program as the new school year approaches.
"I think as the word gets out (there will be more interest), because a
lot of people do feel very strongly about their heritage and want the
language preserved," she said.
Instituting French immersion was one of the system goals set by
Superintendent Eugene "Sonny" Baudry Jr. at the start of the school year,
Henderson said, and has been talked about since last April. While the role
of the French language locally has diminished over the years, the
immersion programs allow for students to reconnect to a key part of their
hometown's history, Henderson said.
"I believe that the French language and culture are deeply rooted in
this area and in Acadiana in general," Henderson said. "We also believe
that this type of program can help students to connect to an important
part of Acadiana's culture and heritage."
Like the other immersion classes, the Iberia Parish programs will
feature a majority of instruction in the second language, with 60 percent
of instruction in French and 40 percent in English, Henderson said. The
class curriculum will be exactly the same as in existing kindergarten
classes, with the only difference being that it will be taught in French.
The French that will be taught in the program will be standard
European French, not the dialects spoken locally, Henderson said. Many of
the teachers of the program come from French-speaking countries such as
France, Belgium and Canada, he said, while others are Americans who have
learned the language.
The program will begin with kindergarten classes and then extend each
year to a higher grade, following the progress of those first-year
kindergarten students. The program will be instituted into first grade
classes at the North Lewis and Daspit schools beginning with the 2003-2004
school year. Ideally, the program can be extended all the way to the
middle school level, Henderson said.
Starting language immersion programs at the kindergarten level is
standard practice, Henderson said. Research has shown kindergarten-age
children learn new languages quicker and easier than do older children and
adults, he said.
"If you're going to target an age group, the time when a child is best
able to pick up a language is when they're young," Henderson said.
Brantley agreed, saying young students in his school's current French
enrichment class seem to have little trouble mastering the basics of the
"It's amazing what these kindergartners pick up with just the little
time the teachers spend with them," he said.
At Daspit Road Elementary, plans are for two of the school's four
kindergarten sections will be converted to the French immersion format,
Henderson said. At North Lewis, one of the three kindergarten sections
will become French immersion. Each section numbers around 22 students.
By: The CAFA Webmaster:
I might add that New Iberia is a Spanish settlement
in the heart of ACADIANA.
A recent poll by the local newspaper, the Iberian, posed this question:
“The Iberia Parish school system is starting a French immersion program
next school year. What do you think of multi-language instruction?”
This was the response:
Stick to English 14.4%
It'll be great for children 72.2%
Other languages are more important to learn 13.4%