French charter school gets OK in Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa parents, teachers and school officials are enthused by the prospect of 140 students learning to <i>de parler en fran?is</i> next year at a unique French-language charter school.

"This is so exciting, this is history-making," said Jennifer Schwinn, a veteran educator who was one of five proponents of the Santa Rosa French-American Charter School.

The K-8 school, which has been in the planning stages for more than two years, won unanimous approval from the Santa Rosa school board Wednesday night and is scheduled to open next August in Santa Rosa.

It will be the sixth charter school in the Santa Rosa district, but the first French-immersion public charter school west of the Rocky Mountains and the fourth in the nation, the founders said.

The only others are in New York, Louisiana and Kansas.

"I have to tell you, it's been an awesome ride," said Najine Shariat, a Santa Rosa dietician and another founding member.

The lengthy organizing process, she said, "is not for the faint-hearted."

But enrolling students won't be a problem, Shariat said, as 195 parents have signed a petition expressing their intent to send their kids to the school, including more than 140 who will enroll next year. Prospective students come from Sonoma and Napa counties, and some on the list would come from New York and France to attend the new school.

Shariat, who will enroll her daughter in the school, said she expects a waiting list for admission, with enrollment starting at 140 and constrained only by classroom space and teachers.

"The sky is the limit," she said.

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