After 17 years of teaching French to elementary school students, the Peninsula French-American School will expand this fall, adding not only a middle school, but Mandarin Chinese as well.
In keeping with the changes, the school has officially changed its name to the International School of the Peninsula.
The school, located on North California Avenue, shares the former Garland School site with Midpeninsula High School. While continuing at that location, it will also lease space at Our Lady of the Rosary Church at 3233 Cowper St.
Starting this fall, the school will offer two sixth-grade classes at the Cowper site, adding seventh and eighth grades over the next two years. Eventually, the school hopes to add high school as well.
Also beginning this September, parents of incoming kindergartners can choose either the French track, or Mandarin Chinese classes. Chinese will be added progressively to a new grade each year.
"There is a very heavy demand for international education in this area," said Head of School Ellen Fournier. There are many people who are bilingual who seek that kind of education for their children, she said. "Parallel to that, we have a lot of American families who realize their children would really gain by being bicultural and bilingual."
The school did a community survey and found that the large Chinese population was attracted to the idea of Mandarin-English education.
While the present French curriculum won't change, "what will change is the atmosphere," Fournier said. "It will be an international atmosphere."
Up until now, the school has observed French traditions and holidays. Now, it will add Chinese ones as well.
Children in both the French and Chinese programs will have lunch together and take English classes, as well as some art and music classes.
Seventy percent of the school's 300 children have French as their first language.
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