City Says 'Oui' to French Lessons for Pre-K

Teaching the third most common language spoken on the Upper East Side to the youngest students has been a longtime of goal parents, educators and officials

11 Mar 2020 | 02:41

The Department of Education announced that it will launch a French dual-language program this fall at the pre-kindergarten center on the Upper East Side to cater to the Francophone community in the city.

A group of French-speaking parents, including immigrants from Canada, Africa and France, began spearheading a campaign two years ago to attain bilingual education for their children, and have worked closely with City Council Member Ben Kallos, Education Attaché of the Embassy of France Fabrice Jaumont, Community Education District 2 President Maud Maron, Deputy Chancellor of Early Childhood and Student Enrollment Josh Wallack, and the Community Education District Superintendent Donalda Chumney to bring it to fruition.

French is the third most common spoken language in the UES neighborhood, according to a report from Business Insider.

“I hear so many languages spoken in my district from every corner of the world and now we are working with the Francophone community to address a need in the neighborhood as we hope to increase the overall diversity of our schools,” said Kallos.

A Vision Realized

The DOE will run the two classes using a side-by-side instructional model where it will have one early childhood certified teacher working alongside another early childhood certified teacher who is both fluent in French and has been certified to teach bilingual education. The city is currently looking to hire more bilingual teachers.

More than 200 parents have signed a petition pledging to send their children to the dual-language program, citing a desire to pass on an important piece of their cultural identity to their kids.

“The parents of this community had a vision and a desire for bilingual education for their children,” said Stephane Lautner, a parent organizer and local resident. “The establishment of this Dual Language French UPK program is the culmination of two years of groundwork, involving over 150 families in New York City coming from countries all around the world, interested in having their children learn French. The personal stories of the parents, told during the meetings with the Department of Education and Council Member Kallos, showed the critical link of language in the maintenance of culture, heritage, and identity.”

Applications to participate in the dual-language program are open now through March 16. The classes will begin in September 2020.