By Jim Wilkerson
A couple of months ago, the School Board announced that it was going to discontinue the French Immersion program, much to the disappointment of many parents. However, after about a month’s worth of public meetings with parents and small group discussions, the School Board reversed its decision.
“We have decided to extend the French Immersion program,” Superintendent Ricky Durrett said. “So, it will go to third grade next year at Ruston Elementary, and we will still have kindergarten, first and second grade at Glen View.”
Not only will French Immersion continue, but auxiliary courses will be offered to more children.
“We talked to some state officials and figured out a way to have our French Immersion program and also offer some French classes for 35-40 minutes several days a week. So, we’ve worked out a way to reach more kids and have a bigger impact,” Durrett explained.
The state officials Durrett mentioned are Executive Director of CODOFIL, Peggy Feehan, and Michéle Braud of the Louisiana Department of Education, both of whom traveled to Ruston to help the parish school administration find a way to keep the program.
“We were very well received and felt very welcome,” Feehan said. “Michéle had been there before, but this was my first time in Ruston. It was long overdue.”
Feehan, Braud, and the school administration, in a small meeting, discussed various ways in which French Immersion could stay.
“We discussed different options of scheduling, different options on recruiting teachers. We talked for over two hours, and it was a very open and honest conversation,” said Feehan.
She continued, “We do offer assistance as much as we can, and we made them aware of some of the assistance we can provide. Sometimes they knew about it. Sometimes they didn’t know about it. We should’ve better informed them ahead of time so that we didn’t get to the position we got to.”
When asked about budgetary issues, Durrett said that the program would not create problems for the 2022-2023 budget.
“We were able to fit it into the budget,” Durrett said. “And now that we’re serving some more kids by doing auxiliary classes, that makes it more feasible for us.”
Durrett further clarified that the School Board will not have to make cuts anywhere else.
Also, there is incentive for the School Board to offer auxiliary courses.
Durrett explained, “The more kids that get 30-40 minutes a week, the more points we get on the schools performance score on the interests and opportunities component.”
When asked if third grade students in French Immersion will have to transfer to Ruston Elementary, Durrett responded they would.
“We had some kids in the past who were zoned to other schools – whether it be Choudrant, Simsboro or Hillcrest – who were going to Glen View anyway. So, it’s kind of been wherever we have it is where they will go,” he said.
Overall, both Durrett and Feehan thought the meeting was a great experience.
“I think it was a wonderful meeting,” Feehan said. “I’m very happy Michéle and I went to meet them face to face…I felt like we were able to answer all their questions. It ended up being good for French Immersion, and I’m happy with the work we did and what we can continue to do in the future.”
Durrett expressed similar sentiments: “We think we’ve come up with a workable solution for everybody. So, hopefully, it will be a win-win for the school system and those kids.”
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