St. Landry académie focuses on language, heritage
Tuesday, January 07, 2020
The loss of the French language in south Louisiana would be the loss of an essential part of the culture that has formed who we are, that continues to set us apart, and that must be a part of our future. But it will disappear unless students are taught to speak it, and to understand its value.
That is the premise of the Académie Franco-Louisianaise, a French immersion elementary school that will begin classes in the old Sunset High School in August, according to Lindsay Smythe Doucet, its principal.
As a French immersion elementary school, all of the académie's courses will be taught in French, with the exception of the English language arts class.
“All children can learn a second language in an immersion setting,” Doucet says. “Immersion is an essential element in the restoration and development of Louisiana’s primary heritage language.” Preservation of our heritage is part of our future, as well as our past, she says.
The académie is a tuition-free charter school that is part of the St. Landry school system, but run by a nonprofit community board. Students will come primarily from St. Landry Parish, although those from surrounding parishes can enroll if officials in those parishes approve. It will begin with kindergarten and first grade classes and will add one grade per year until the fifth grade, plus pre-K.
Applications are now being accepted for the school. Meetings for interested parents are scheduled at the Sunset community center at 6 p.m. on January 15, 21, and 27, February 6 and 12, and March 5. The school intends to enroll at least 96 students for the 2020-21 school year, with a goal of 280 students over the next five years. The first students do not need to speak French before entering the school, in fact, teachers will recognize that French is not a student’s first language.
The académie will seek to “build on our community’s roots and heritage,” to offer “rigorous academic, linguistic, and cultural experiences,” Doucet said. The long-term goal is to educate young adults “who are bilingual as well as intellectually, culturally, and globally competent” and who will play a role in “the cultural revitalization of their community.”
Doucet says research has shown that, in addition to fluency in a second language, immersion students tend to have better memories, greater mental flexibility, better problem-solving skills, and higher self-esteem than non-immersion students.
French immersion classes have been a significant part of the effort by the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) since its founding in 1968, when French was no longer taught in Louisiana’s elementary schools and rarely in the high schools. In 1969, the State Department of Education authorized the teaching of French as a second language in the elementary and secondary public schools.
“Given the parent demand for French immersion education and the cultural loss that our region is experiencing, our school will provide a long-overdue service to both students and to our community,” according to the principal.
More information is available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AcademieSunset, or by calling or texting call/text Lindsay Smythe Doucet at 337-377-7177.
Three things to know about this story:
- Académie Franco-louisianaise de Sunset is a French immersion elementary school, that will build on Louisiana’s French heritage.
- It will begin with kindergarten and first grade classes and will add one grade per year until the fifth grade, plus pre-K.
- Parent meetings have been scheduled through March.