Houston prep school parents devastated over closure of dual language program

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Parents at an elite Houston prep school are distraught after a surprise announcement heralding the end of a popular dual-language program.

Officials at The Village School broke news about the abrupt end of the French and English program during a last-minute meeting with parents Wednesday morning.

“My kids were crying when I told them,” said Stephanie Cogoni, who had three kids set to attend the Energy Corridor campus next year.

The school of just fewer than 2,000 students cited financial concerns in its decision to shutter the year-old program.

“Today, we made the difficult decision to close our French English Dual Language Program,” Head of School Gabriella Rowe said in a statement Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, with so many Houston families affected by the oil and gas volatility, Village, like many other Houston schools, has felt the impact and we’re unable to continue to offer this program and provide its participants with the high-quality education that’s come to be expected of The Village School.”

The new program had attracted international families, many from France, who temporarily relocated stateside for jobs in the oil and gas industry, parents said.

Families first found something awry after a Tuesday email calling for a parents’ meeting the following morning.

Cogoni feared the worst.

“Because it’s my fourth year with kids in the school, I knew that only bad news is not announced so I immediately thought it was because they would close the program,” she said.

But she – along with parents from some of the roughly 40 other families enrolled – dutifully turned up at the school to hear Rowe speak.

“They announced they were closing the program because they think it’s not profitable enough,” said another mother. “We literally begged them to close it the next year. But they had no reaction, they didn’t care.”

In its statement, the school said it would offer admissions support with other area schools. An email sent to parents earlier in the day offered a tuition discount and after-school French classes.

But the end of the dual-language program is particularly distressing for international families who want their children to understand their homeland.

“We are French families and we are far from our home country and we would like them to learn how to write, read and speak in French properly,” Cogoni said.

And now, it’s late enough in the year that many other dual-language programs may have already closed their 2017-2018 admissions, according to some parents.

“We are reeling in shock,” one mother said. “We don’t know what to do with our kids.”

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