Waterloo Schools introduce first French/English classroom

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) – If you listen into a certain Kindergarten class at Lou Henry Elementary, it might sound a little different than what you’re used to. The first French/English Kindergarten class started on Tuesday, but before it could start, the district spent some time creating the concept.

“Our community is built on choice, and opportunity, and a deconstruction of the barriers that many of our families face. What better way then preparing our young people and our schools for a world where multiple languages engage in a future,” Associate Superintendent Dr. Charles McNulty said.

For the past year, he and a team worked to create a pathway for English language learner students.

“It creates a learning environment where every child both the English speaking child and the native speaking child, succeed,” McNulty said. “We were looking for just the right amount of students to start this pathway.”

That opportunity arose this year, when an influx of students from the Congo. After two parents meetings and a lottery, 10 French speaking students and 12 English speaking students are in a class together. The class is taught by a ELL teacher as well as a French teacher.

“All students are learning part of their day in English and part of their day in French, but there’s always support in the other language,” Principal Jake Youngkent said. “They’re learning English not through just vocabulary and specific things, but through content throughout their entire day, and same thing for our English speaking students, they’re learning French in the same way.”

Lou Henry is no stranger to different languages. Youngkent said the diversity throughout the building was a great reason to hold the course within the school’s walls.

“We at any given time have about 20 different nationalities that are represented in our student body,” he said. “It’s something that was almost just inevitable for us because of the diversity that way have. With a large influx of French speaking students in the last couple years, I think this is Lou Henry. So, I think this is why it works so well for us.”

The district plans to continue the pathway as the students grow. It also plans to incorporate a Spanish/English path next year.