August could be the start of a transition for Myrtle Place Elementary into the Lafayette Parish School System’s flagship French immersion school.
Part of that plan involves phasing out non immersion students from the campus.
Several elementary schools in the school system also offer French immersion — where students learn their academic courses immersed in the foreign language — but these are on campuses where students also are learning in their first language, English.
Myrtle Place has a larger concentration of French immersion students: about 229 of the nearly 400 students enrolled at the school.
As part of a proposal discussed with the School Board last week, the Saint Street neighborhood school would no longer enroll incoming kindergartners who aren’t in French immersion. That’s estimated to be about 22 students — or one class section. Those students, depending upon where they live, would have the option to attend Broadmoor Elementary or S.J. Montgomery Elementary. If those kindergarten students have older siblings at Myrtle Place, families would have the option of the older sibling following the kindergarten sibling to the new school, said Nicole Boudreaux, the school system’s world language specialist.
Boudreaux briefed the School Board on the plan at its April 1 meeting and at some point will present it again as a formal agenda item for consideration. Boudreaux said the board will need to act quickly on the proposal so parents — and the school system’s transportation department — can start planning for the upcoming school year.
Board member Erick Knezek asked how the transition would affect schools such as Broadmoor, which he said is already at capacity.
Broadmoor Elementary has a large English as a Second Language population. School system staff also will bring a plan to the board to adjust enrollments at ESL schools, assistant superintendent Sandra Billeaudeau told Knezek.
“We have to address our ESL population and our growth. When talking about how many students at Broadmoor, we’re going to have to alleviate some of the Broadmoor bulge and we’re looking at where the ESL population lives,” Billeaudeau said.
Boudreaux said discussions of creating a flagship French immersion campus began about three years ago because a committee saw the need for “a school that’s going to lead the others by being the most successful model it can be by addressing only immersion students.”
The school system began growing the immersion population at Myrtle Place two years ago by moving French immersion students previously housed at Alice Boucher Elementary to Myrtle. Also, French immersion students who previously attended S.J. Montgomery now attend Myrtle. Consolidating students from the two schools on Myrtle’s campus allowed the school system to consolidate positions, Boudreaux said.
“We were able to save you money and consolidate resources, as well,” Boudreaux said.
The plan would not displace any students who currently attend Myrtle Place, she said, nor is the plan an attempt to “get rid of (non-immersion) students.”
However, enrollment projections show that fewer non-immersion kindergartners are enrolling in the school, she said. Last year, 30 kindergartners enrolled; this school year, there are 22 non-immersion kindergarten students, she said.
Board member Tehmi Chassion questioned whether the school has already started limiting kindergarten enrollment access based on the numbers Boudreaux presented.
The dwindling kindergarten population could be attributed to the neighborhood demographics, board member Justin Centanni told Chassion. Centanni lives in the neighborhood and says it’s populated by older residents who no longer have school-age children, though young families are moving into the area.
Chassion, whose daughter is in French immersion at Paul Breaux Middle, said he supports French immersion, but still questioned the low non-immersion enrollment at Myrtle Place.
“I’m for it, but if we’re going to displace the kids there — and honestly, it looks like we have been displacing them,” he said.
Boudreaux denied the assertion and said the former principal, who retired at the end of the 2013-14 school year, would not deny zoned students access to the school.
“She would not have turned students away,” Boudreaux said.
If the proposal is approved, the school would add additional class sections at the second- and fourth-grade levels, and in the 2016-17 school year would add additional third- and fifth-grade sections at the school.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.