This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
L'Etoile du Nord French Immersion3
Posted October 20, 2014
- a parent
My daughter started this Fall, and so far it is great! She is learning a lot of french, and her teacher has great communication with the parents. The first few weeks were a bit tough for her (getting used to the french immersion and structure). However, she is now familiar with the routine and looks forward to school. She has made some friends, and speaks positively of the activities. There are minor bullying issues that I get a bit worried about, but so far only classic kindergarten politics. I just worry about how these are managed as the kids get older and hope that these issues are taken seriously. My daughter has told me that occasionally the teacher doesn't know about some particular occurrences. One other issue is that the bus driver dropped my daughter off and let her off the bus without me at the stop (it came much earlier than it was supposed to one day), and she was walking home with an adult male neighbor (luckily I knew him). This was extremely concerning, though I know this is not specific to LNFI, and I have addressed it with the driver. Otherwise I have been very very happy with everything at the school thus far - will update if I have any change of opinion.
LNFI is a truly amazing school. My daughter is going into third grade this fall and thus far we have nothing but positive experience with the school. Immersion is inherently more difficult than other education methods, and the teachers have high expectations; they generally seem to run gentle but firm classrooms, they know their kids, and they teacher to high standards. After three years of immersion my daughter is above grade level in all her subjects and was able to express herself at a nearly fluent level in the French-speaking world this summer. The principal runs a tight ship but that's a good thing, especially with language immersion.
We enrolled our daughter in LNFI for Kindergarten in 2012, and we have been very pleased with our experience there. Her experiences with her teachers and Discovery Club have been wonderful. I am frankly surprised at some of the criticisms posted here. They tend to focus on particular program strengths/weaknesses and issues such as uniforms and diversity. Given the open public choice system in St. Paul, parents have a lot of options in terms of programming, so they can select according to particular program strengths. The anti-bullying program that Discovery Club promotes is actively supported by the school leadership, and they have a great curriculum. Diversity is increasing in part due to the location of the school, and this was a major point of discussion in the relocation. This school is great at fostering a rigorous learning environment in a foreign language. If you want your child to take advantage of a challenging language immersion opportunity, this is a great choice. If you are looking for a program with different strengths, then take advantage of the other opportunities in the SPPS system.
Think twice about this school if your child has a physical or learning disability or the potential for some sort of diagnosis down the road. Those students and their families struggle at this school. Most leave. It is a top down environment, with no real community building. Few new students transfer in due to the language requirement so dynamics established in the early grades are hard to change. By the upper grades bullying can be rampant depending upon the year. The Discovery Club is the only area that works on antibullying. The school has no program of its own. The teachers are deeply committed to immersion education but the principal has a reputation as tyrannical. (Think screaming.) Few TAs stay more than a year or two & staff who stays learns to keep their heads down. The district recommends a maximum number of 25 in kindergarten classes but you'll find closer to 30 in K & 1 at LNFI. Parents fundraise throughout the school year for foreign interns who come for a year to "enrich" the program. In reality, they are scheduled primarily in the younger grades because the teachers really need the help. At about 3rd grade, students no longer have much interaction with interns.
I sent my 5 year old to this school for kindergarten and was disappointed by the security measures at the school. For dismissal they send all the students to the gym and anyone can walk in and grab your kid. My child actually walked home by herself across busy Minnehaha - they just don't watch and let anyone leave! When I approached the school about this the receptionist was like "that can't happen" and I said "well it did!" The principal didn't even call our family to follow up. For about a week they increased teachers at the doors but that only lasted a week. My husband and I just make sure we are there before they let the kids out the door. I am however impressed by her teacher this year. She really works with the kids to excel them as best as she can. My child is learning so much - we love our teacher! Great academics- lousy security.
While most of kindergarten through 4th grade have been great for my daughter, 5th grade has been dismal. The classes are huge, her teacher left midway through the school year due to multiple issues, and after several replacements a sub was hired who is unqualified and does not have the correct training or skills to teach, and seems to think yelling at the children will improve performance. The principal does not train or adequately monitor new teachers and the kids pay the price of a inadequate and unhealthy environment. Many of the teachers are exceptional, but leadership is poor, and issues are not dealt with by the principal.
LNFI is a very good language immersion school. Overall, I am happy with my child s education, but wish more academically-challenging math and reading options were available. Because LNFI is a city-wide St. Paul public school it has the flexibility to move (and has moved) to new locations throughout the city of St. Paul. As a result, this school retains parents who are very committed to language immersion. I encourage the SPPS district to better manage the enrollment of L Etoile du Nord in order to be able to continue to guarantee students the ability to attend the established language immersion programs at Ramsey Jr. High and Central Sr. High.
We LOVE this school! It's a public school, with a private school feel. The diversity is amazing - there are children, families and teachers from all over the world at LNFI. There is a warm and genuine sense of community, the teachers and staff are incredible, and the parental involvement is absolutely phenomenal. The 15+ French and Belgium interns and student teachers that are there each year, provide an even more enriching environment for all grades on a daily basis. Anyone that wants to get involved and participate is very welcome and appreciated. We can't believe our good fortune in getting an open enrollment space for our out of district child, we are happier here than we could have ever imagined we would be in a public school. The only thing that would make us happier, is if it became a K-8!
Why are the low parent reviews of LNFI I saw last year on greatschools.org absent? After a year at LNFI, we have applications in at several other top performing schools outside the SPPS system. Communication from our child's teacher is poor and does not seem to be a unique challenge in the school. The principal seems unaware of her own school's demographics and constantly passes the buck on responsibility. To get a sense of the parent community, I highly recommend you read through the FB discussions. You will see everything from the way new parents interested in a uniform policy are dismissed to a shocking lack of concern over the low diversity of the school. There is a lot of good at this school, but it seems to come with a heap of bad.
I am so glad that I picked this school for my son.It has been a great experience and I look foward to my daughter going there in a few years.I love the fact that the Interns at the school is from a French speaking Country.We plan to be a host family for an intern someday.This is the best school ever!