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A sign reading "Ici on parle Francis!" welcomes people to Myrtle Place Elementary on Friday, Mar. 13, 2020.

Visas for more than 70 foreign language teachers, including 16 who were scheduled to teach in Acadiana in 2020-21, will be processed, clearing the teachers for travel to the United States, Louisiana agencies involved in their recruitment said.

Matt Mick, spokesman for the Council on Development of French in Louisiana, said Wednesday that the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs said they would begin processing the J-1 visas for the international associate teachers, most of whom have been recruited from France, Belgium and Canada.

Presidential Proclamation 10052 had restricted visas for foreign workers to protect American workers during the economic downturn created by COVID-19. He said as many as 73 teachers, most of whom would teach in language immersion programs in Louisiana public schools, were temporarily affected. About 2,000 Louisiana students, most in grades K-8, would have been affected.

CODOFIL oversees the employment of about 175 of the teachers, most of them in immersion instruction. The teachers usually hold three-year visas; the 73 teachers who were affected were first-year teachers.

They teach in 15 separate parishes, including Acadiana parishes. Six would teach in Evangeline Parish, four in St. Martin, three in Iberia, two in Lafayette and one in Vermilion.

“This is a wonderful development accomplished through the hard work of so many people. We are always fortunate to have these teachers in our state, helping connect our students to the rich heritage of the French culture here in Louisiana,” Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said. “This would not have been possible without the dedication and support of our Francophone partners around the world.”

CODOFIL is a state agency in the Department Culture, Recreation and Tourism, under the lieutenant governor’s office.

Mick said the delay in processing the visas may have affected some travel plans for the teachers, but so has the pandemic, which has played havoc with scheduling the state of the public-school year in Louisiana.

“We do not know yet about how the schools will open or when,” Mick said. “We are following developments as the schools are following developments.”

The impact of barring the teachers was profound in Evangeline Parish, which started immersion education at Mamou and Ville Platte in 2017. All the teachers at Mamou, whose three-year visas had had elapsed, were to be replaced.


Email Ken Stickney at kstickney@theadvocate.com.