Above, Principal Gerard Granade declares, ‘We speak French at Richland.’
Ask them to name the colors in the U.S. or French flags, and the kindergartners at Richland Avenue Elementary School are just as likely to answer “rouge, blanc et bleu” as they are “red, white and blue.”
Similarly, the youngsters who are learning that two plus two equals four are also going to find out that deux plus deux sont égaux à quatre.
Welcome to the Richland’s World Language Immersion Academy, the District’s only dual-immersion language program in which French is taught. About 120 students are enrolled in transitional kindergarten, kindergarten and first grades, with the program set to expand by a grade each year as the older students matriculate upward.
“The reception has been really great, and we’ve had so much support from our families and the District,” said Gerard Granade, who began teaching in L.A. Unified in 1999, and became Richland’s principal five years ago.
“Our program is really teaching the Common Core in both languages, so that students who are learning to count in English are learning the same lesson in French,” he said.
The creation of the French Academy grew from the desire of Richland parents and faculty to establish a dual-language immersion program at the West Los Angeles campus, Granade said. Neighboring schools already had strong dual-language programs in Mandarin and Spanish, Granade said, and he didn’t want to try being an instructional leader in a language in which he was unfamiliar.
“We thought, ‘Let’s try something completely different,’ and we came up with French,” said Granade, who was born to French parents and didn’t speak English himself until he was in kindergarten. “And our teachers and parents said, ‘Hey, that would be kind of cool.’”
“Research has shown that children are extremely capable of learning multiple languages from a very young age, although most schools don’t introduce foreign languages until middle school,” he said. “Learning in two languages facilitates higher-level thinking and improves overall achievement.”
L.A. Unified offers 65 dual-language immersion programs, offering instruction in Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Arabic and Armenian, as well as Richland’s French program. Even more programs will be added in 2017-18 as the District implements voter-approved Proposition 58, which provides more flexibility and control over multilingual and biliteracy programs.
These programs are being celebrated in April, as the District celebrates National Bilingual/Multilingual Learner Advocacy Month.
Zara Bennett, the parent of a Richland first-grader, said the French Academy has provided a unique experience for her daugheter.
“Richland’s French-Immersion program has given my daughter not only the gift of a second language, but also a membership in a strong learning community,” she said. Richland is so special because it offers a small school experience with big academics. Principal Granade and his staff are committed to making bilingual education thrive.”
First-grader Fiona Makhlouf said her experience at Richland has been très bon.
“Learning French is so much fun,” she said. “Plus if I travel to a country where they speak French, I will be able to talk to them.”