P.S. 151 breaks ground with French program

P.S. 151 breaks ground with French program by Lisa Fogarty, Assistant Editor 07/30/2009 email this storyEmail to a friendpost a commentPost a Commentprinter friendlyPrinter-friendly Parents, teachers and the P.S. 151 community in Woodside said “mais oui” to a new French dual language program for kindergarten and first-grade students, set to start in September — the first of its kind in Queens. Although there are 81 dual language programs in New York City public schools, only five of them are offered in French, despite a recent statistic released by Education Francaise a New York, a group founded to promote French education in city schools, that says more than 31,000 children speak French at home. The French programs in operation are located in public schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Advertisement As it turns out, Woodside has a vibrant French-speaking European and North African community, and was an ideal place in which to launch the borough’s first French program. P.S. 151 Principal Jason Goldner learned this fact when he was approached by two parents who were eager to establish a French program at the school. Uncertain of the prevalence of the language in his area, Goldner invited Woodside’s French-speaking families to attend a movie night at his school. The event proved edifying. “I had all these French-speaking children running around watching Babak,” Goldner said. “Unbeknownst to me, I found there is a French community in Queens. If my parents in this community want a French program, I’m going to provide it.” The French dual language program offers a classroom environment where half of the students in each class are English dominant speakers and half are fluent in French. By collaborating with the District 30 Community Education Council, the French Embassy, the Office of English Language Learners, which provides a $20,000 grant to any school that starts a French language program, and the parent organization French Education in New York, P.S. 151 will follow a 50/50 model in which half the daily instruction time will be conducted in English, half in French. Literacy and social studies will be taught in French and English. While math is taught only in English, math vocabulary will be taught in both languages. Specialty subjects such as science, physical education, art and music are taught in English. “French is not the priority,” Goldner stressed. “The priority is giving them a good education — and through getting a good education, they will learn French.” The program proved a success at P.S. 84 in Manhattan, a school that broke ground with its dual language Spanish program in the mid 1980s. A year a half ago, parents approached Principal Robin Sundick, requesting she add a French program to the kindergarten and first grade classes. The community found the curriculum so rewarding, there’s a waiting list for P.S. 84’s current kindergarten class. “By the end of six years in the program, the children really will become biliterate, bicultural and bilingual,” Sundick said. “Some are learning French and some are learning English, so there’s a real sense of community, support and collaboration in the classroom. It becomes a very nurturing environment and the children are really participating in each other’s education.” Teachers at P.S. 151 will not repeat any instructional content in translation, and students will be expected to meet or exceed New York State and city standards. The current plan will provide students enrolled in this year’s dual language program with French instruction until fifth grade, though the curriculum could grow to two classes if the neighborhood’s demographics change. “It’s a wonderful program and everyone on the council was in favor of it,” said Jeannie Tsavaris-Basini, chairwoman of the District 30 CEC. “Our only concern was how it would be funded.” Several organizations stepped up to offer a tremendous amount of help, Goldner said, including the French Embassy, which is assisting in funding the program. One of the school’s teachers already taught French to a group of students at an outside facility, and Goldner hired another French-speaking instructor to start in September. Besides giving parents an opportunity to help mold their children’s curriculum, the French dual language program has allowed P.S. 151 the opportunity to distinguish itself at a time when the school was rapidly losing students to other schools, Goldner said. “This program is giving it flavor,” he said. “It’s an exciting new program — and it’s going to add character to the school.” Space is still available for P.S. 151’s French dual-language kindergarten and first grade class. All French-dominant or bilingual students applying for the 2009-2010 school year will be tested by school staff for fluency in French. Testing will take place at P.S. 151 after school in September. For more information, contact Naida Ryans, parent coordinator, at (347) 563-4254 or by email at Nryans@schools.nyc.gov. Parents can also register at P.S. 151 located at 50-05 31st Ave., Woodside, (718) 728-2676. ©Queens Chronicle 2009 http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=20352691&BRD=2731&PAG=461&dept_id=574908&rfi=6

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