Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Notre Petite École Jean Moulin

As one might expect, enrollment of minor children into the French public school system is a requisite for being granted legal residence in this country. This was one of the wonderful benefits I looked forward to in planning our move to France: no longer would I be paying private school tuition for Emily's French emmersion education. Her former school, Denver International School had prepared her well for the transition. Before leaving, I made copies of all her report cards and made certain that they, and several of her most recent French workbooks (mathematiques, graphiques, dictee, etc.) were packed in the suitcase.

During our first week in Provence, while we waited for our house in St. Roman to be vacated, I visited with the Secretaire de la Mairie, Nathalie in preparation for Emily's enrollment. You see, the school would need a letter from the Maire that verified Emily was a resident of St. Roman. Nathalie said "Ne t'inquiète pas!" (Don't worry!) and she gave me the phone number for the Maitress so that I could arrange an advance meeting to go over Emily's abilities. She said that the teacher wanted to determine just how much French Emily knew coming in.

During the following week, I called the number at every opportunity, to no avail, as the first day of school rapidly approached! I had been told that Mme Cottin resided in an apartment above the school...couldn't she hear the phone ring?....was there no sense of urgency to prepare for the upcoming start? (OK, it's clear I was looking at this through American eyes!) On the morning before the first day of school, at last, she answered. Yes, she wanted to meet with us, but she would only be there until 11:30! I quickly scheduled our rendez-vous for 10:45. We gathered up all of Emily's books and documents and headed to the car.

Our meeting with Annette Cottin went quite well; I could see her visibly relax as she started to peruse Emily's work. Yes, the books were identical to the texts she uses and it was clear that Emily was an excellent student. I left her a copy of all four years of Emily's DIS reportcards (written in both French and English), from maternelle, petite section to grande section, CP (1st grade) and CE1 (2nd grade). Emily would enter CE2(3rd grade). She informed us that the school day would start at 9am and finish at 4:30, but the children go home for lunch from noon to 1:30. Furthermore, while the school week used to consist of only 4 days, with no classes whatsoever on Wednesdays, the Department Vaucluse was instituting a new schedule (quel dommage) which would require attendance every other Wednesday, for a half-day class, 9 to noon.

Ms. Cottin showed us the one-room school and told Emily she would be allowed to select one of the desks on the first day. Emily was facinated, as the wooden tops of the desks lift up for storage of the children's books and supplies. I was informed that the school expected enrollment of 11 students and that they ranged from 1st through 5th grade. There was one sheet of paper for me to fill out, with contact information (no releases or waivers to sign!) and I would need to purchase the nationally required student insurance (12-36 euros, depending upon the extent of coverage preferred) She handed me the vacation schedule, jotted down the class hours and a few items for us to purchase: 1 cahier de jour (day planner), 2 cahiers (4-ring binders) and a couple packets of dividers. C'etait tout!

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