UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — Officials and families cut a ceremonial ribbon at an Upper East Side pre-K center Friday, marking the start of a new French dual language program nearly a year in the making.
The program's origins date back to a December 2019 meeting with City Councilmember Ben Kallos and local school leaders and parents at the Stanley Isaacs Center.
That meeting gave rise to a petition signed by more than 200 parents pledging to send their children to a French dual language program if such a program was created, Kallos's office said.
A follow-up meeting in March was attended by representatives from the French Embassy as well as French-speaking parents from Canada, Francophone Africa and France itself, making the case for the program to the Department of Education.
After months of planning, the dual language classes began Sept. 21 for 36 pre-K students at the District 2 Pre-K Center on East 76th Street. Demand for the program was high: a waitlist currently numbers more than 100 students, according to Stephane Lautner, a local parent who helped organize the classes.
"Knowledge is power, so any opportunity we get to expand and improve education in my district I will be supportive of," Kallos said in a news release.
Jérémie Robert, Consul General of France in New York, called the program "an amazing opportunity for New Yorkers to immerse into a new language, regardless of their personal background.
"This program embraces all the cultural diversity of New York City," Robert said.
In the early years of the city's Pre-K for All program, demand vastly outran supply, especially on the Upper East Side, where just over a hundred seats were available to more than 2,100 four-year-olds in 2014, the program's second year, according to a WNYC report.
Since then, the neighborhood has added seats for the past few years, and now has a capacity of 1,819 seats, according to Kallos's office.