For Tara Bardeen and Angela Strange, learning a second language while in school had a profound impact on their lives. Now, as parents themselves, they’re pushing to open a new charter program …
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.
For Tara Bardeen and Angela Strange, learning a second language while in school had a profound impact on their lives. Now, as parents themselves, they’re pushing to open a new charter program through Denver Public Schools that will teach its curriculum in French.
Strange said learning a language was one of the most important things she ever did. “It opened up the door for me to do so many different things,” she added, saying that the group of parents working to put together the French American School in the City Park neighborhood want to provide Denver students with the same advantage.
As the refugee population has started to rise in Denver, the city began to draw a large number of people from West Africa, which speaks French as its first language, Bardeen said. She added that there are an estimated 20,000 French-speaking people in Denver. Although many schools have immersion programs for Mandarin and Spanish, options for French-speaking parents are more limited.
This can be problematic for parents trying to help their children with school work. Multilingual options help allow those parents to be “able to participate in their child’s education,” Bardeen said. Without that, they’re left without a voice.
“We wanted to really make our case to DPS that this is a community that is lacking in education opportunities,” Strange said. “As an international city we owe our Denverites, and anyone else who’s coming here, the opportunity to do this.”
The French American School would follow basic curriculum requirements from the state of Colorado, but with an added emphasis on French. Students in kindergarten through second grade would be taught 90% of the time in English. It would then move down to 70% for students in grades 3-5, and finally it would be 50/50 for students in grades 6-8, Bardeen said.
Parents have already gone through the approval process through DPS for its curriculum, and a location was recently approved at 1580 N. Gaylord St. in the Church in the City building. In order to launch for the 2020-2021 school year, Bardeen said the French American School needs to prove it has 80% of its target enrollment number, or 179 students.
Going through the approval process was long for Strange, Bardeen and the rest of the parents putting the program together. Bardeen said that all of the parents were doing the work on a volunteer basis and using their own money to fund the work.
“There’s a lot of things that go into creating a school,” Strange said. “As one door closes, a little mouse door opens.”
The French American School would be a choice-in school, which would allow students from all over Denver to apply for the program. This was an important element for all the parents building the program. Strange said the point was to bring the academic advantages of knowing a second language to all of Denver.
But there is only one public school option with French, the Denver Language School, which Strange said always has a waitlist, even though the school opened a second campus. The other option is private school.
“Most of the families that want an immersion option,” Strange said, “they’re either going to pay 20 grand per kid, or they’re going to be on a wait list.”
Bardeen said that talent comes from all areas of Denver. Which was why they wanted to make the school open to all. Busing has already been added to the budget so that parents also wouldn’t have to worry about how their kids would get to school.
“We’re all about equity and accessibility,” Bardeen said. “It makes me so happy every day to say that this school is tuition-free. You can just come and these benefits are for you.”
Other items that may interest you
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.