French immersion classes for older students on hold in Lafayette

School officials have pushed back plans to start a French immersion option this fall for older students after only 10 students applied for the class.

The goal was to create at least one class of 20 fifth-graders who would start immersive learning in French. The program has been delayed until the 2015-16 school year.

In foreign language immersion, students are taught all of their classes, except for English language arts, in that foreign language. The classes typically begin at the preschool or kindergarten level. The district also offers immersive learning in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.

No other Louisiana school district offers late-entry immersion classes like the ones Lafayette was hoping to offer.

While there weren’t enough applicants this year, school officials say they hope to revive the initiative in the future to provide older students an opportunity to pursue their interest in studying French in an immersion program.

“We are hoping to propose it again for 2015-16, but we have to see what are the financial possibilities to back up that initiative,” said Nicole Boudreaux, Lafayette Parish School System’s world language specialist.

However, she said, the district’s current budget situation and projections for next year could table the idea altogether.

The School Board continues meetings next week on the school system’s general fund for the 2014-15 school year and a shortfall that has grown to more than $22 million.

The school system has a popular French immersion program with more than 1,000 students.

Because the demand for the program is so high, the district selects students based on a computerized lottery system resulting in an annual waiting list of students who didn’t get into the classes that start in either preschool or kindergarten.

The late-entry option was to be a second chance for students who weren’t selected for those early classes.

Boudreaux has said the late-entry option is popular in other countries and most students catch up to their long-term immersion peers by the ninth grade.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.