Parents seek a French connection

GLENDALE — About 90 parents are organizing a French addition to Glendale Unified's dual language immersion program.

French would join Armenian, Spanish, German, Italian, Korean and Japanese in the Foreign Language Academy of Glendale, an instructional track where teaching is delivered in varying percentages of English and foreign language.

District officials said parent involvement has always been the key ingredient behind the program's expansion. It's what led to the creation of the Japanese program, which began this year at Verdugo Woodlands Elementary School.

Successful launches require a core of parents at the kindergarten or first-grade level, as that's the key to grow the program in time, officials said. Student ages vary widely throughout the roughly 90 parents behind the French program, said Muriel Gassan, one of the program's organizers.

"I would say 50% of them or more are French or native speakers, which is really good for the program," she said. "When they are going to open the program, people are going to come. That's been my research."

District officials said they hope to add a French program, but there were no plans for an announcement.

"We're looking at the district as a whole and looking at the best place it would be," said Vickie Aviles, director of special projects, intercultural education and professional development. "It's something we're looking at, but haven't made a decision as to when and where."

It would be the only French immersion program in any Los Angeles County public school, Gassan said. And she's coordinated with the French consulate to help the program financially, mirroring similar partnerships with the district and the German consulate.

Parents prefer Franklin Elementary School for the French program, but as one of the smallest and oldest campuses, Gassan said there were mixed messages on whether the school could take on a fourth language.

The campus is phasing out its English-only instruction beginning this year, and was among three Glendale Unified schools chosen to be a magnet school.

That status and its emphasis on foreign language have made Franklin a draw for Gassan and her team, she said.

"If it's not this school, it would probably be another one," she said. "We are hopeful. It's best to have it at Franklin."

The award-winning Foreign Language Academy of Glendale spans seven schools and is helping district enrollment numbers, officials said.

The program is open to families in and out of Glendale Unified, with certain preferences for families with students at the school or for families who live near the campus.

Glendale Unified was awarded the bilingual district of the year last year by the California Assn. for Bilingual Education.

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