Take Note: Looking for a French connection

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A wave of terrorist activity in the City of Lights is keeping Carol Rolband and her 8th-grade French class away from their traditional end-of-the-year trip to Paris.

And now, they may even avoid their second choice.

Each April for the past six years, the French teacher from New Jersey's South Orange Middle School has taken about 20 students to Paris to experience the best of French culture firsthand, with stops at castles, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower.

But before Paris, she and her class had ventured a few times to a not-so-distant cultural enclave: Montreal.

Amid all the uncertainty in Quebec triggered by a proposal that the French-speaking province secede from Canada, however, Ms. Rolband says she's not planning for April in Montreal just yet.

"I'm waiting to see if things will simmer down a bit there, too," she said.

In a referendum last week, voters in the province voted non by the smallest of margins on the question of whether to seek independence: The vote was 50.25 percent against secession.

But the narrow call for unity has not put an end to the issue driven by separatist, French-speaking Quebecers. Observers say the divisions that sparked the debate could take years to settle.

Ms. Rolband said her class had been following the debate closely. But as far as going to Montreal, the province's chief city, she said, "it's pretty hectic there right now, so we're just doing nothing."

In Paris, meanwhile, bombings by Algerian terrorists have hit a little too close to home. Ms. Rolband said that last year she and her class were in the subway station under the Mus‚e D'Orsay, where one of the recent explosions occurred.

Over the past year, bombs in Paris have killed seven people and injured 160.

In 1991, just after the Persian Gulf war, Ms. Rolband took eight students to Paris after closely monitoring the situation with the help of travel agents. "I just don't want to have to go through that again," she said. "It's a stressful enough thing to do under very normal circumstances."

Although she hopes to return in 1997, Ms. Rolband said her students, who have studied French since the 6th grade, are disappointed. "They really look forward to the trip as a kind of culmination to their studies," she said.

--Laura Miller

Vol. 15, Issue 10

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