POINTE-AUX-CHENES, La. (BRPROUD) — After decades of working to make it a reality, Pointe-au-Chien celebrated the opening of their new French immersion school building. The governor and the Consulate General of the French Republic Rodolphe Sambou traveled down the bayou to meet with the children of the inaugural class.
The communities in southern Terrebonne Parish have had French spoken across the bayou for generations, but the language has slowly drifted away.
“Our tribal people started these thoughts of opening a French immersion school a long time ago,” Executive Director Christine Verdin said.
With the opening of Ecole Pointe-au-Chien, the small, but growing class aims to carry Cajun French and traditional French into the younger generations.
“We started this year and we started with seven kids and now we’re up to nine. We’re planning on getting a bus,” Verdin said.
The school opened two years after the local elementary school shut down before Hurricane Ida devastated the area. The children spend the majority of the school day speaking the language their grandparents grew up hearing.
“If we had gone one more generation, it would be exponentially harder and probably would never have happened that we would hang on to this.” Gov. John Bel Edwards said.
The school was made possible through the southern Terrebonne and Lafourche delegation fighting for funding to create the school at the capitol. The group was led by state Rep. Tanner Magee who rallied up support from other French speaking lawmakers and the governor.
“This is the only French immersion school that is state run in the state of Louisiana. But if I’m not mistaken, it is the only French immersion school of its kind in the United States of America,” Edwards said.
Now the schoolhouse is finally ready to let the kids move in, in just a couple weeks. The governor was joined by the Consulate General of France at the inauguration of the school to congratulate the tribal members and the community on their efforts. They worked together with lawmakers at the capitol to recognize how important it is to keep this part of southern Louisiana culture.
“We will persevere. We didn’t give up. We’re going forward. We’re going to save our language,” state Rep. Mike Huval said.
Edwards encouraged the parents of the community to continue to grow the school and branch out as far as they can to keep the culture alive and well.