Parents in posh Park Slope, Brooklyn have a brand new bilingual middle school option in their neighborhood: MS 88, following in the footsteps of MS 51, is introducing a French-English program in the 2014-2015 school year. The announcement was made during the recent launch of the French Embassy and FACE foundation’s fundraising campaign for the development of bilingual programs in New York public schools.
That will bring the total number of public middle schools in Brooklyn offering bilingual French education to three. “We were undecided between a French-English and a Mandarin-English bilingual program,” says Principal Ailene Altman Mitchell of MS 88. It was her friend Giselle Gault-McGee, principal of PS 58 and a pioneer of bilingual programs in New York, who convinced her. “There is a strong demand for French in our neighborhood.”
In its first year, the program will be limited to one 6th grade class with thirty students, and students wishing to participate will have to demonstrate a good command of French. MS 88 hopes to attract students from the entire District 15, beyond PS 58. “There is also interest at PS 29 (another local school), as well as among Francophone families who have recently relocated to the district,” points out Assistant Principal Sara Panag.
Middle school registration ends on December 13, so parents wishing to get in on the program must hurry. Ms. Panag, however, is confident that they will start the school year with a full class. A failure to fill a similar program at MS 256 last year is keeping those championing the class on their toes. “As with any new program, it is essential to work closely with the parents,” Ms. Panag adds. “I have pursued, and will continue to have discussions with parents of PS 58 and other interested parents within our school and during open houses in our district.”