French dual-language programs, which didn't exist in New York City public schools five years ago, are booming across the city, spurred by lobbying efforts from the French community.
By September 2011, six elementary schools, one middle school and one charter school will have French programs. Public School 133 in Park Slope and P.S. 110 in Greenpoint are expected to unveil programs starting this fall.
The growing number of French programs reflects the growing number of French. A survey conducted by the U.S. Census found 14,000 French lived in New York City in 2009, up from 12,000 in the 2000. The French consulate in New York says the true number is far higher—approximately 75,000 French living in New York state, most of them in New York City. About 3,000 French families have settled in the Carroll Gardens-Gowanus-Park Slope area of Brooklyn in the last 10 years, said Fabrice Jaumont, the education attaché at the French Embassy.
While there are a handful of private French bilingual schools in the city—Lycée Français of New York; the French-American School of New York; and Lyceum Kennedy among them—the high cost of attendance put them out of the reach for many younger French families.
The French dual-language programs in public schools, by contrast, are free. "There was a lot of thirst among them for programs like this, because four years ago, if you couldn't spend over $20,000 to send your child to a private school, you didn't have a choice," said Marie Bouteillon, the first teacher hired for Carroll School-P.S. 58's dual-language program in 2007.
That program started with a kindergarten class of 24 students, split evenly between native French speakers and non-French speakers, and with one teacher. It now enrolls nearly 200 students across four grade levels, with eight teachers, and has a growing waiting list for admissions this fall.