In August, École Pointe-au-Chien to Open Kindergarten, First Grade
The board of directors convened at its first meeting on Monday, March13, and it approved hiring two French teachers for the inaugural school year.
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The board of directors of École Pointe-au-Chien, Louisiana’s newest French immersion school, located in Pointe-aux-Chênes at the crossroads of Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes, voted to open enrollment for children seeking entry to kindergarten and first grade for the inaugural school year that will begin in August. The board also voted to recruit two French teachers in coordination with the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Education.
"Not only is this going to bring a school back to our community, but it will be a beginning for bringing the language back to the community,” said Christine Verdin, council member of the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe. “We will begin with elementary but will also eventually offer adult classes so interested parents can learn French too. Our goal is to hear more French in and throughout our community."
The board voted to begin soliciting interest from parents of prospective students. As permitted by applicable state law, preference in enrollment will be given to families who live in Pointe-aux-Chênes, Isle de Jean Charles or former residents who were displaced due to Hurricane Ida or relocation from the island by the state, as well as the families of former students of Pointe-aux-Chênes Elementary. If spots are still available, enrollment will then open as a lottery to students from other parts of Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes with weighting for children of French immersion teachers at the school, those with parents or grandparents from Pointe-aux-Chênes or Isle de Jean Charles, and anyone with family members with a demonstrated background or interest in Louisiana French.
Beginning with the 2023-2024 school year, École Pointe-au-Chien will be located in the Knights of Columbus building in upper Pointe-aux-Chênes. Eventually, École Pointe-au-Chien will move to the site of the former Pointe-aux-Chênes Elementary building, which closed in 2021 due to a decision by the Terrebonne Parish School Board and then was damaged by Hurricane Ida. Renovations are expected to begin on the building later this year.
“The board is working closely with the Division of Administration, the Department of Treasury, and state legislators to find the most effective ways to expend funds allocated to the school to renovate the provisional and final school buildings as well as other necessary investments in curriculum, finances, and administration,” said Will McGrew, Télé-Louisiane CEO, who was elected as interim president until the full board is appointed.
At Monday’s meeting, nine board members were present after being appointed by their respective state agencies or Indian Tribes (including the Consul General of France in Louisiana Nathalie Beras, ex officio, in an advisory capacity). In total, there will be 13 members serving on the board.
Initial funding for École Pointe-au-Chien comes from $3 million allocated by the state legislature, which voted in 2022 to pass HB 261 (Act 454), authored by Speaker Pro Tempore Tanner Magee, R-Houma, that created the school and established an independent governing board. Board members reviewed next steps for spending some portion of the $3 million by the end of the state’s fiscal year on June 30, and it is coordinating with legislators on rolling over the remaining funding to next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The board also voted to create an online form for parents to express interest in enrolling their children who live in the target enrollment area.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are proud to be making history in creating the first French immersion school in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes, the first immersion school serving a predominantly Native population, and the first immersion school that will teach our local Cajun and Indian French dialects of French,” McGrew said. “We are grateful for the overwhelming support from the legislature and other stakeholders in making this school a reality for Pointe-aux-Chênes and a model for communities across the state.”