New York City to Open Arabic Public School

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The first New York City public school offering the Arabic language and culture is set to open in September.

Named after the Lebanese poet and philosopher, the Khalil Gibran International Academy for grades 6-12 will be located in Brooklyn and be one of 40 new schools that the Department of Education plans for the 2007-2008 school year.

All the new schools will be located in existing school buildings that are being closed for poor performance.

The academy will receive funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Debbie Almontaser, the school's designated principal and a 15-year veteran of the school system, told The New York Times that the school ideally will serve an equal number of students with backgrounds in Arabic language and culture and those without such backgrounds.

"We are wholeheartedly looking to attract as many diverse students as possible, because we really want to give them the opportunity to expand their horizons and be global citizens," she told the newspaper.

"I see students who are excited about engaging in international careers, international affairs, wanting to come to our school," added Almontaser, who is fluent in Arabic.

"I also see Arab-American students who would want the opportunity to learn Arabic, to read it and write it and have a better understanding of where their ancestors have come from."

When it opens in September, only sixth grade will be offered, with another grade added each year, and eventually serving 500 to 600 students in grades 6-12. By the third year, the school hopes to offer half the classes in Arabic and half in English.

The Department of Education is partnering with the nonprofit New Visions for Public Schools, which has been involved in the recent creation of dozens of small new schools, and the Arab-American Family Support Center, which will provide the Arabic instruction.

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