Dear Judy

Can you advise as to how a public school (MS 51 in Brooklyn) can decide to have a French Dual Language program for two 6th grade classes at the expense of the rest of the district kids? What is the approval process? How does this happen? What is FLAM and how did it get involved.

District 15 parent

Dear District 15 parent

Establishing a dual language program takes lots of hard work and commitment by principals, teachers and parents. First, you have to develop a constituency for the program. This is where a group like FLAM comes in. FLAM, which stands for Français Langue Maternelle, is an association to promote the teaching of French in city public schools. It sponsors after school French programs in some districts, and a few elementary school programs. The group includes current parents of public school kids. Like other not-for-profit groups, it cooperates with the school and the district to create and support programs.

With the interest and commitment of the parents and the rest of the school community, you then have to identify enough native language speakers and willing English language speakers so that there will be an equal number of students on both sides of "dual. " You have to find the teachers and finally get the approval of the the Department of Education's Office for English Language Learners. (For more details, see my column: Starting a dual language program.)

As for the new program in District 15, Lenore Barber, principal of MS 51, told us it took three years of planning to establish the program which will open in September 2013. It was conceived and developed as a follow-up to the dual language program at PS 58. Kids graduating from that school had no place to continue French language study and since MS 51 does offer French to the general student body, it was a logical step. In fact, the lack of follow-up of dual language study after elementary school is a common problem, with very few middle or high school dual language programs offered in the city.

MS 51's French-English dual language program will open with two classes if there are enough qualified applicants. All students must be native French speakers, or if native English, must have been in a French-English dual language program. This means that MS 51 may go beyond the district to fill seats which is permitted for dual language programs, if there is space. All students will have to meet other admissions requirements for the school, which means they must have good grades, high standardized state test scores and undergo a brief interview.

To offset the addition of this class, or classes, the principal says they will open an additional 6th grade class in 2013 because she knows that there is a lot of demand for the school.

I hope this allays your concerns.