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Letter: Saving French at Herndon Elementary

To the Editor:

I am writing, as a parent of two children currently attending 4th and 6th grade at Herndon Elementary School in Herndon, to express our big concern about the proposal and possibility of switching from the French Immersion Program that has been in place since 1988, to a two-way Spanish immersion.

The proposal was presented to us on Jan. 30, 2013 after we received a short notice and a flyer that was sent home with the students at HES. Therefore, it came up as a surprise as we have never heard about this change before. We definitely had no idea that this was discussed with Fairfax County Public Schools administration.

As a result, there was a massive reaction and a group of parents formed quickly to call for a meeting with some responsible parties at FCPS administration. We met on Feb. 8, with Ms. Jane Strauss, School Board member representing Dranesville District, and the assistant Superintendent for Cluster 1, Marty Smith to have a dialogue regarding the proposed change.

I strongly believe that we should keep the existing French Immersion program in place as it can benefit our school for the generations to come. It attracts a large community including outside the boundaries families, who are willing to drive their children back and forth, in order for them to attend our school due to the partial French program that HES offers.

Furthermore, I know some families who are also relocating or already bought their houses, to be in proximity to school considering that there are only two schools in the county who offer this great French immersion program, Herndon ES, and Kent Gardens, in McLean. Hence, we not only want to keep French immersion as an opportunity for future generations, but we also aim to improve the quality of this program.

My understanding from attending that meeting is that FCPS administration is committed to support any foreign language that has been in place for so long and is willing to help us save this program. We are aware that there are some challenges that we have to overcome for the program to be successful in the future including the hiring process of highly “Qualified Teachers” that has been altered as a Title I school.

We suggest that FCPS look for a partnership with some local universities such as George Mason University, and promote our school as a good place to teach French language. I also believe that the actual school administration needs to take the lead and be more supportive of the French immersion program, instead of looking for a way out.

It is important to give our kids this unique opportunity to learn French as any other foreign language at an early age, which will be an asset for all the students later on in life and in their future career as it can open so many doors to them, and Herndon Elementary School is the perfect place for that to happen.

Aicha Bensaid

Herndon