Lycee Francais considers slowing pace of adding upper grades

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A table included in Lycee Francais's charter contract calls for eighth and ninth grades to be added next fall. (image via lfno.org)

A table included in Lycee Francais’s charter contract calls for eighth and ninth grades to be added next fall. (image via lfno.org)

The original plan for the Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans calls for the charter school — which currently has students up to grade 3 — to suddenly add both the eighth and ninth grades next year, essentially leaping forward into both middle school and high school at once.

Now, the school’s new leadership is reconsidering that plan.

Concerns about that accelerate schedule for adding upper grades have been on the mind of new board chair Tim Gray since he assumed leadership of the school board in July. At that point, he called it “extremely ambitious” and said the school’s facilities committee should have a recommendation on whether to carry that plan out by this fall.

On Wednesday night, facilities committee chair Mary Jacobs Jones, school leader Keith Bartlett and two committee members held the first formal discussion of the plan. The tentative consensus was that any growth beyond the expected addition of a fourth grade next year is likely too much, too soon.

“This is a year to get things straight,” Jones said.

Three possible scenarios were discussed Wednesday. The school could stick to the charter’s plan, and add the eighth and ninth grades next year. It could abandon any accelerated growth, and simply add one grade level at a time. Or, in a sort of compromise, the school might decide not to add any middle-school grades ahead of time, but begin work on creating the city’s first French-immersion high school that would serve students from other programs around the city at some midpoint in the future.

One initial task the committee set for itself was to determine how many upper-grade students around the city would even be eligible for upper grades or a high school. More than 200 or 300 students entered French-immersion kindergarten programs this year at Lycee, Audubon Charter School, the International School of Louisiana’s various campuses, Hynes Charter School and the private Ecole Bilingue. Those numbers drop precipitously in the upper grades, however; because students must be fluent in French in the upper grades, those who leave the programs early for natural reasons are nearly impossible to replace.

Meanwhile, Audubon Charter already has a committee exploring the creation of a high school, and it is part of ISL’s long-range plan as well. Bartlett suggested that New Orleans might be better served by a single immersion high school fed by all the French programs, but it would require Lycee’s convincing the other schools it was truly interested in working together.

“None of us can do it alone,” Bartlett said.

Before making any recommendations to the full board, the facilities committee decided to spend a month researching the possible number of students, the staffing and facilities requirements, and state regulations that would be involved in adding middle school grades. Jones suggested that the committee should be able to make an initial recommendation on whether to add any additional grades next year within two months’ time.

See below for live coverage.

6 thoughts on “Lycee Francais considers slowing pace of adding upper grades

  1. Yeah, good luck convincing Audubon. One particular parent burned a lot of bridges in establishing what she consider “her” personal Lycee.

  2. I really hope lycée adds at least another grade this coming up year. Lycée has to understand that the number of kids in attendance at these other school (which our older kids have gone to three of the other French schools due to Katrina and not being able to afford EB) that they also leave in the upper grades because the parents are sick of dealing with a tired apathetic community that resists change and innovation. Everyday my child at Audubon sees her sibling going to lycée and asks when they will have her grade. She says her schools French teachers are great and we agree but the building is falling apart the airconditions in the run down trailers aren’t working and she says shed love to have healthy lunches like the lycée kids. Kids and parents wouldn’t switch over to lycée to be spiteful of another school but because they want a better enviroemt and greater opportunities. I wish lycée administrators would consider the kids first and the feelings of the other schools further down the list.

    • They are not interested in taking students from other schools and causing the same problems that the past board members did. Mending fences with other schools is paramount to their success and much more important than whether or not your child gets a “healthy “lunch..

  3. excellent reporting, as usual, Mr. Morris. This answered several questions I had. This situation should be a concern for everyone in the city who cares about our French culture, which is deeply embedded in our larger city culture.

  4. I just read this article. The addition of grades 8 and 9 in the fourth year of the school’s existence was due to founding parents who had older children whom they hoped would benefit from a Lycee High School Bacc. program. There were lengthy discussions in regard to this issue, and the founding parents got their way.

    I hope that the board will pursue the natural progression of adding one grade annually, rather than trying to create a high school at this time. It was the charter participant’s dream that a high school be created with the intention that the school would offer a French Bacc. It would be impossible to do so at this time. It would be more beneficial for the school’s leadership to mend the broken fences with its’ sister charter schools. Those destroyed fences were created by the former board. Fence mending will take some time as some former board members created bitterness and dissension, and trust must be rebuilt.

    Perhaps the new Lycee CEO could invite the principals/CEOs from Audubon, Hynes, ISL, and EB to lunch to start the fence mending and rebuilding. A joint high school venture would be fitting for the French programs, and would be advantageous not only to the French community, but to the city.

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