ELMHURST – Conrad Fischer Elementary School, which has more than 180 native Spanish-speaking students, may have dual-language classrooms for kindergarten students in the 2018-19 school year if the Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 Board of Education approves plans in January 2018.
Mary Henderson, the district's assistant superintendent for learning and leadership development, and Ariana Leonard, English language/bilingual and world language coordinator for the district, presented a recommendation for a dual-language curriculum at the Dec. 12 board meeting.
Currently, the district is using the transitional bilingual education model, which it has used for many years. Henderson said through new research and programming, they have learned the transitional bilingual education model is not the best model.
"When we look at what is best practice currently and what the research tells us, we know that there's a way that we can give our kids the opportunities that they deserve," Henderson said.
Leonard said they are looking at a two-way immersion program taught in Spanish and English, and half the students would be native English speakers and the other half would be native Spanish speakers. Spanish and English would be taught daily, and literacy would be taught in both languages, she said. Thus, both sets of students would be learning both languages.
Dual-language programs would "open the doors" to enrichment opportunities for English-language learners, and all the students would be learning to be bilingual, biliterate and bicultural, Leonard said.
She said transitional bilingual education is considered a "remedial," "deficit-based" program where the Spanish-speaking students risk losing their native language, whereas dual language is considered an "enrichment" program where both languages are considered assets.
There would be three dual-language classrooms instead of two bilingual classrooms for kindergarten at Fischer next year under the plan, Henderson said. The program would "roll up" one grade per year until it is fully implemented at the elementary level in the 2023-24 school year, she said.
Fischer families would have priority for participation in the dual-language program. The school also would continue to offer the at-risk all-day kindergarten option and the half-day general education option, with English language services for non-native English speakers.
Families outside the Fischer boundaries with kindergarten students interested in dual language would be able to apply for the Fischer program through a lottery. Transportation costs for the students bused from other areas of Elmhurst would be incorporated into the state transitional bilingual education and transitional program of instruction grant, Henderson said.
Tanya Cummins, PTA secretary for Fischer, asked during public comment at the Dec. 12 meeting that board members wait to vote on the dual-language proposal until they have informational meetings for parents at Fischer.
If the plans are approved at the Jan. 9, 2018, board meeting, a series of parent meetings would be held during the remaining months of the 2017-18 school year to verify interest, inform parents and solicit input to ensure successful implementation, according to a district newsletter.