LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish school system is asking for the public’s input on whether to expand the district’s popular foreign language immersion program, said Nicole Boudreaux, district language immersion specialist.
More than 1,000 students are enrolled in the foreign language immersion classes, which are offered in French, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. Students in the immersion program speak and learn all of their academic lessons in the foreign language, except for English language arts.
The immersion programs are part of the district’s schools of choice programming. Because of limited space available in the programs, students apply for a seat and selection is made by a computerized lottery.
A random phone survey of Lafayette Parish school system parents begins Tuesday and the public can offer feedback via an online survey starting Wednesday at: http://www.lpssonline.com. The online survey will be available until Oct. 17.
“We want to know what they think about expanding immersion, having more (preschool students) in immersion, having immersion in high school,” Boudreaux said.
She said other questions involve the public’s input on whether the district should open stand-alone immersion schools, rather than the existing school-within-a-school that are now in place.
“We also want to know if they’d like to see other languages taught in the immersion setting,” Boudreaux said.
The input will be used to develop a plan for immersion programs that will be included in the district’s current six-year turnaround plan that Superintendent Pat Cooper calls “100 Percent In, 100 Percent Out.”
That plan was presented to the School Board in the spring and includes task force recommendations on the district’s operations and programs to move the district’s state accountability rating from a C to an A within six years.
The foreign immersion programs were not included in the spring review, so a task force was created to analyze the programming and make recommendations, Boudreaux said. Those recommendations will be presented to the School Board at its retreat Oct. 27, she said.
The task force includes teachers, principals and representatives of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, Festival International de Louisiane, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and members of the Chinese-, French- and Spanish-speaking communities.
In a news release issued Monday, Cooper stated public input is an important part of the current review process.
“We know language immersion is a very popular program here, and we have over 1,000 students currently enrolled, so we want to make sure we’re hearing from everyone as we consider making any changes going forward,” Cooper stated.
The school district’s oldest and largest immersion program with more than 900 students is French, which started in 1992, Boudreaux said.
The district started Spanish immersion classes in 2005 at the Alice Boucher Elementary World Languages Academy and the school added Mandarin Chinese immersion classes in the 2009-10 school year. Currently, Mandarin Chinese is offered in grades kindergarten through third grade.
Boudreaux said one problem has been the loss of students in the transition from elementary to middle school. Currently, only one middle school — Paul Breaux — offers continued immersion studies. She said one option may be placing the immersion programs at Pre-K through eighth-grade school sites.
“We may try to strengthen it that way,” she said.
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