The call to action by Franco-American Stéphane Lautner for the creation of a French-English program in the public has paid off. Two bilingual French-English prekindergarten classes will see the light of day on the Upper East Side at the start of the 2020-2021 school year, the first step towards a possible bilingual program up to middle school. The selected site is the Pre-K center in District 2, located at 355 East 76th Street. Enrollment is open until March 16 on the Department of Education website (school reference: 02Z128) for children born in 2016.
The program is open to all children in the city. “This is a victory in the name of all the parents who participated in this project and shared this dream with me. It has been two years of work. It’s really incredible,” reacted Lautner.
The two planned classes will have 20 students each. Two additional classes could be created depending on the recruitment of teachers. Lautner was quick to note that these openings are only a first step. The many parents who joined his effort to launch a bilingual immersion program in District 2, which covers almost all of Manhattan below 96th Street (except the Upper West Side and Lower East Side), must remain mobilized to extend classes up to 5th Grade. “I want the program expanded. Language education is very important to me,” he continued. He believes that the expansion of the programme has “a good chance of happening.”
Lautner was involved in the launch of an after-school program in French with the EFNY (French Education New York) association at the school of his oldest daughter, PS 527. On December 13, on a rainy evening, he organized a public meeting on the Upper East Side in the presence of New York City Council Member Ben Kallos and a representative of the Department of Education (DoE) to show the interest parents have in this kind of immersion program. The parents came en masse to show their support. In addition to Ben Kallos, Lautner received the support of Fabrice Jaumont, educational attaché at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, and the French Consul Anne-Claire Legendre.
Several initiatives led by French parents had been started in the past within this large school district (in Battery Park City, TriBeCa and Midtown), but none had been successful. “Many parents had been discouraged in the past because they had not been able to create a program for their children,” said Lautner. His own are too old to enroll in the new classes. “This initiative will be able to benefit a large number of New York children, whatever their language or socio-economic background.”