UPPER WEST SIDE — A new French dual-language program at a West 93rd Street middle school saw a mere five students sign up in its first year, education officials said.
But the timing of the program's announcement late last year made it difficult to enlist students, said Ilene Altschul, community superintendent for school District 3, despite demand for French dual-language programs elsewhere in the city.
"It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t go full-fledge ahead," she told the district's Community Education Council at its September meeting.
The deadline for middle school applications was in late December, but the program was not definite at that point, and an open house was not held until early April.
"It’s unfortunate that because of the late notice all the students weren’t able to participate," Altschul said.
The program at the 161-student school was open to all sixth-graders in the city, she added.
Some CEC members were surprised that the Department of Education couldn't find students to fill the seats in the program, given it was open to students citywide.
"There’s a huge French-speaking community around 116th Street," said CEC member Olaiya Deen, who advocated for outreach in that area.
The program offers a French-language class and a social studies class taught in French, but the idea is to alternate English and French in all subjects, said Community Board 7 chairman Mark Diller at the board's Monday night meeting.
He said there was concern the program would be canceled given the low number of students enrolled, but that it was moving forward regardless.
"Parents are encouraged to get other parents to join the program," Diller said.
"Next year we’re looking forward to really launching it," added the school's interim principal, Candida Frith.
The Department of Education said it would continue to support the school's program despite the low enrollment.
"The DOE is fully committed to increasing parent choice and program availability, at M.S. 256 and at all schools throughout the city," a statement from the department said. "We will continue to support M.S. 256’s students and staff in preparation for next year’s incoming class.”