French School Gets Larger Quarters The Philadelphia School Has Moved Into The Historic Beechwood House.

Posted: August 03, 1993

BRYN MAWR — After just two years, the space for the French International School of Philadelphia has become, in the words of retired principal Josette J. Smith, trop petite.

Last week, the French school made a major move - from a leased second-floor wing at the Baldwin School to the historic Beechwood house, about a half mile down Montgomery Avenue, which is part of the Shipley School.

"Baldwin couldn't give us more space," Smith said. "Our school is growing and Shipley just vacated this building (Beechwood). We have a wonderful house with two stories."

Shipley's second and third graders have moved from Beechwood to a new building nearby.

The French International School is a bilingual program that follows the curricula required by the French Ministry of Education and the State Department of Education. According to Smith, it is the only full-fledged French bilingual program in the state.

Except for some painting, adding a partition between two rooms and some electrical work, Smith said the house was ready for the teachers and children.

Smith said there might also be shared programs with the Shipley School. Steven Piltch, headmaster at Shipley, said he was excited about the possibilities.

"It's wonderful in terms of appreciation for cultural education programs and for our students to have the opportunity to interact with an institution that revolves around the educational system of another country," Piltch said. ''It's also a chance for them to do the same with our system. . . . We have an agreement to share the campus for three years, but it is our hope that we develop a relationship that will go well beyond that and essentially we will become sister schools."

Piltch agreed that both schools would explore the possibilities of shared programs, including mutual tutoring, later this year.

When the French school first opened in 1991, it had 11 students between the ages of 3 and 7. Next month, there will about 45 students in pre-kindergarten through the fifth grade. Smith said the school hoped to add a grade each year until it had 12 grades.

Many of the students at the school are children of French business executives who work in French pharmaceutical firms and affiliates based in the area.

With the French International School in the Beechwood home, a French tradition continues. Stephen O. Fuguet, who built the home in 1878, was married to Marie Louise De La Forest, daughter of the French Consul in Philadelphia at the time.

Smith, who retired on Friday, came to America about 40 years ago from France. She spent 23 years teaching French at the Baldwin School before beginning work on the French International School.

Pascale Davidson was named principal July 1. Davidson was previously a teacher, admissions officer and vice principal of the French American Bay Area Bilingual School in Berkeley, Calif., for 13 years. Smith said Davidson had been in the United States about 15 years.

"My dream has been realized," Smith said. "I'm very happy to be leaving the school on such firm footing."

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