“They’re saying kids aren’t interested, and it’s not true,” said junior Melissa Bejarano, 16, who expected to take French 3 this year. Most students learned of the change on the first day of school two weeks ago, Bejarano said – long after completing the “summer packets” of preparatory assignments handed out by Alcindor last spring – when the French classes they expected to see on their schedule weren’t there, and neither was Alcindor. “They put me in Spanish instead and said my French will count as an elective, not a foreign language,” said Osbaldo Abarca, a 17-year-old junior who expected to take French 2 and intended to go on to French 3. “It’s like starting all over again.” After arguing hard that the move is a setback to their progression toward college – the UC and CSU systems require two years of the same language, but recommend three – Bejarano, Abarca and their fellow French students were extended an olive branch this week, when administrators offered to bring the language back part time, either before or after school. The limited program has some 40 interested students so far and could be in place as early as Monday, according to White. The class (or classes, depending on total enrollment) will be held during the 7 to 8 a.m. “zero period” or the 3 to 4 p.m. “seventh period.” “We need to get this started so the students don’t miss out,” White said. But the kids themselves say they’re missing out regardless, now that the campus that prides itself on its “college-going culture,” as a district catchphrase goes, is left with only one foreign language on its regular schedule – Spanish – that many of them already speak. (There are Spanish classes designed for native speakers.) “This school talks about being college prep but they’re taking away a foreign language?” Abarca asked. “I think it’s important to have more than one language. Not just Spanish, but French and German and Japanese and Russian.” The California Department of Education’s “Foreign Language Framework for California Public Schools” encourages schools to offer multiple languages as a way to “produce high-school graduates who have progressed to the higher stages” and who “have knowledge of more than one culture.” State education law, however, stipulates only that foreign language be offered to students by the seventh grade; it does not address how many, or which languages should be offered, according to Arleen Burns, a foreign-language consultant in the CDE’s curriculum office. “It is a local decision to determine which languages will be offered, although we certainly advocate for as many options as possible, when possible,” she said. Lawndale school officials agreed – White even said she’d like to bring Japanese classes to her district – but maintained that their hands were tied by the numbers. “We don’t have the luxury of some other school districts – we can’t maintain a class that has only 10 or 15 students,” principal Bravo said. “We are promoting a college-going culture and we understand the concern, but you have to be fiscally responsible as well,” White said. The average class size at Lawndale High is around 34 students, according to White, who did acknowledge that “some classes – many AP classes – have less.” “If we had students – forget 300, if we had 150 students – that wanted to take French, we’d bring it back,” she added. In the meantime, though, budding Francophiles at Lawndale High have three options: switch to Spanish, pursue French at El Camino College (where one semester is equivalent to a full year of high-school study), or attend the zero- or seventh-period class. Junior class treasurer Bejarano, who ultimately aspired to an Advanced Placement French course to gear up for what she hopes is a college career at the University of California, will probably opt for El Camino. But she’s not happy about it. “It’s not right,” she said. “We shouldn’t have to go to such means to take a class that should be available to us.” Despite his similar belief that Lawndale “should have a regular class, during the regular day,” Abarca is resigned to staying on campus for the late class. “I have other things to do, and other homework to do,” he said. “But it’s like I have no choice.” [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “There just aren’t enough students to warrant having a full-time French teacher at Lawndale,” district Superintendent Cheryl White said. Principal Vicente Bravo said he was unsure exactly how many students wanted to study French this fall – only that the number wasn’t high enough. It is not uncommon for districts to shift teachers among campuses depending on enrollment. Lawndale students assert that Alcindor had five full classes last year – a combination of French 1 and 2 – and that a large majority of those students registered to continue. Alcindor, whose name is still on the Lawndale High School Web site but so far not listed on Leuzinger’s, could not be reached for comment. By Shelly Leachman STAFF WRITER Decrying the move as a hit to their academic joie de vivre, students at Lawndale High are upset with the school’s decision to cancel its French classes and jettison the teacher to another campus. Instructor Marie Alcindor was relocated to nearby Leuzinger High, where the language is more in demand, according to officials.