Guest Editorial, March 19-22, 2011 | ParkRecord.com

Guest Editorial, March 19-22, 2011

Melissa Garland, Park City

There is one thing you can say unequivocally about Park City parents: We want to give our children every possible opportunity to succeed and excel. You can see it in the public and private programs we support and in the fund-raising efforts we undertake all to ensure that every Park City child has not only a happy, safe and challenging education environment, but also access to the "extra mile" opportunities, whether in sports, extra-curriculars or academics.

Dual-language immersion (DLI) programs may be one of the greatest advantages we could ever give our children.

DLI is a program where children learn, from 1st grade (earlier in some places), all of their school subjects in a second language. There are several models for DLI; the one being used in Utah and currently at Parley’s Park Elementary (PPES) is a "50/50" program, where half the day is taught in English and half the day in the second language.

The academic skill, brain-development and cultural awareness benefits of DLI have been proven scientifically and conclusively. Children who learn a second language from an early age do better, on average, in all subjects (including math, science and English) over time. After learning a second language, the ability for a student to learn a third, fourth and fifth language is dramatically increased. The innate awareness of the differences between cultures as a function of learning other languages is at the heart of the global political and business demand in our society today. Experts in DLI have noted that language skills in the 21st century are what computer skills were in the 20th century: essential.

Here in Park City, PPES is moving into its third year of DLI in the Spanish language. They are now planning to expand downward from 1st grade to Kindergarten for the fall of 2011 based on the knowledge that the younger children start, the better.

PPES’s DLI program is oversubscribed. I personally know of two sets of parents who have deliberately moved to that school district to get their children into the DLI program. The Park City school board recently conducted a survey of parents’ interest in DLI and received over 350 responses, 85 percent of which were "interested" or "extremely interested" in the program. There is undoubtedly enough demand for these programs from Park City parents.

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On Tuesday, March 22, starting at 4 p.m. and with public comments taken at 6 p.m., the Park City school board will be voting on a proposal to add a DLI program to one additional Park City elementary school in fall of 2012. This expansion plan is great but it’s not enough. We need a program in every elementary school in town, and for the sake of children like mine, now entering Kindergarten, we need more programs now.

Parents: please make known your support of more DLI programs in more schools sooner. You can do this by attending the March 22 meeting. You can also do this by emailing the school board members directly. You can find email addresses on the school board website at: http://www.pcschools.us/index.php?page=48 .

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