Lafayette to offer ‘late-entry’ French immersion program

The Lafayette Parish School Board is considering offering late entry into its popular French immersion program, which generally requires that students start the special language instruction in preschool or kindergarten.

The district plans to open one section of late-entry French immersion to incoming fifth-graders who have advanced skills in English and are interested in exploring a second language, said Nicole Boudreaux, the district’s world language specialist.

“The class is dependent upon the School Board budget,” Boudreaux said. “We have more than 25 parents who have called and are interested. Since we’re opening one section, we’re happy with that number because otherwise, we’d have to turn people away.”

French immersion is among the more popular offerings in the district’s schools-of-choice program, which gives students the opportunity to pursue their interests in foreign language, the arts, sciences and other fields.

Because of limited seats in all schools-of-choice options, the district holds an application process and selects students by a computerized lottery.

French immersion is the district’s largest schools-of-choice option, with more than 1,000 students. All of its classes, except for English language arts, are taught in French.

French immersion continues through the eighth grade, though students have the option to take advanced French courses in high school.

Boudreaux said the district explored the possibility of opening a late-entry class to give those children on the waiting list a second chance at immersive language studies.

Boudreaux said parents interested in the late-entry option include those with children who applied for immersion in kindergarten but missed out and those who moved into the district in their student’s later elementary years and missed the opportunity to enroll in immersion. She said other parents have said they want the option because their child’s interest in French was sparked in fourth-grade French class.

She said students who apply will be screened to ensure their academic skills in English are sufficient to meet the demands of the immersion class.

“We’re looking for kids who love language,” she said. “If they love English, we know that they’re going to read independently, and because they are very strong in their first language, they’ll have more facility to learn the second one.”

If the class opens, it likely will be held at Prairie Elementary or Myrtle Place Elementary, Boudreaux said.

The board starts its budget meetings on April 15, though the final budget document won’t be approved until the summer.

A meeting for families interested in the late-entry immersion program is scheduled 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 15, at the School Board’s central office, 113 Chaplin Drive, near Lafayette Regional Airport.