District’s dual-immersion program to expand | SierraSun.com

District’s dual-immersion program to expand

Ryan Salm/ Sierra SunSenora House, a kindergarten teacher at Kings Beach Elementary makes a Mother's Day note in spanish with her kids on Thursday afternoon. The school board appoved the expansion of the Kings Beach Elementary dual emmersion program.

The empty meeting room at Kings Beach Elementary School gradually filled with dozens of parents Wednesday night, who turned out to lobby the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District board of directors to expand the school’s popular dual-immersion program.

After listening to parents and teachers comment about the program’s efficiency, long-term vision, admittance procedures and available facilities, the board voted unanimously to expand the language program, allowing 20 more students to attend dual-immersion classes from kindergarten to fifth grade.

The board also expressed interest in adopting the program for middle school students, said board President Kristy Olk.

Despite Interim Superintendent Jo Lynn Wilson’s proposal to expand the bilingual program by two tracks, the board approved just one new track because of a shortage of available classrooms. A committee will study ways to further expand the bilingual curriculum.

The elementary school’s alternative program provides students with an opportunity to learn both Spanish and English in a multicultural classroom.

“The dual-immersion program is the most successful program, as verified by national research, for English language learners,” said Jessamy Lasher, the district’s director of curriculum and bilingual programs.

“It promotes bilingualism, bi-literacy, and multiculturalism,” said Olk, who also noted that statistics show lower high school drop-out rates and higher college-attendance rates for students who learn in a dual-immersion classroom.

California Proposition 227, which requires schools to provide alternative bilingual education when requested by parents, also obligated the district to expand the Kings Beach program by at least one track for a total of three strands.

Due to a lack of facility space, board member Bill Kraus said the district could not add a fourth strand without displacing another valuable program.

“From the district’s perspective … we need to make a decision on how much of [the program’s] demand we can and should meet,” Kraus said.

The possibility of starting another dual-immersion class at Tahoe Lake Elementary was also discussed. Tahoe Lake Principal Dan Hyde expressed concern at the meeting regarding the school’s capacity to accommodate additional students, but the board did not rule out the option of moving a small number of students to the school.

School board committees will look further into the use of the district’s facilities, Olk said.

“There’s a large demand and we anticipate that demand growing,” Kraus said.

Currently, there are more than 40 students on the program’s waiting list. A single track provides space for 20 students.

“It’s an accommodation issue,” said Wilson. “How are we going to accommodate this into the district?”

The program does not cost the district more money, but does require bilingual teachers. Kings Beach Elementary has created a strong network of teachers dedicated to the success of the program, Lasher said.

“If you just plump down dual-immersion at another school, where is all that support?” she said.

Instead of promoting more dual-immersion programs, members of the board expressed interest in developing unique magnet-like programs specific to each school, Kraus said.

“Dual-immersion benefits the entire district because it is another example of diverse programming,” he said.

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