As of June 1943, the teenagers at the home, Max-Marcel Balsam, Marcel Bulka, Maurice Gerenstein and Henri Goldberg, attended the secondary modern school in Belley, where they were boarding pupils. They returned to Izieu during the holiday period. Gaston Lavoille, the secondary school head teacher organised their reception and integration with the other pupils.
Sabine Zlatin wanted the other children to go to school. At her request, Pierre-Marcel Wiltzer, the Deputy Prefect in Belley took the necessary steps to enable a class to be set up at the home itself.
Gabrielle Perrier (Tardy was her married name) was only 21 years old, when the regional education authority appointed her as primary school teacher at Izieu on 18th October 1943.
The class was set up on the first floor of the house. The classroom was established with the help of education authority inspector Gonnet and Deputy Prefect Wiltzer. Some communes lent desks, a few books, slates, and a map of the world. With these limited resources, Gabrielle Perrier taught each child according to age and learning level.
In his letters to his parents, Georgy Halpern gives a detailed description of school life:
“The classroom’s pretty, there are two blackboards, a stove, geographical maps, pictures on the wall. there are 4 windows and it’s fun. There are 15 desks ; (…) in the morning, we do writing and maths during lesson time. In the afternoon, we do a dictation or grammar and, when we know all that, we learn our lessons, do recitations, verbs, the 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, 7-, 8-, 9- or 10-times table. We write compositions and I got 64 ½ points, I was 3rd out of 8.”
“I was very moved the first day of school, when I found myself in front of these 40 or so children of all ages, the oldest were nearly teenagers.
I noted their proud attitude, sometimes serious, and I understood they wouldn’t be taken in! (…) These children had suffered, they had come of age early. They would never have told me they were Jewish: they wanted, and knew how, to keep their secret. (…)
I had a class like any other class. Moreover, all these children spoke French without an accent. (…) Some of them were very intelligent, their intelligence was even remarkable.”
Gabrielle Perrier-Tardy (1922-2009), teacher at the Izieu home