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Dual-immersion looks for next big push

Cole Fullmer, The Park Record

Dual-immersion was introduced into the Park City School District in 2009 at Parley’s Park Elementary, when 50 students enrolled in the two-way language program. This gave students the opportunity to learn a second language by spending half the day using English instruction and the other half learning in Spanish.

Since integrating the teaching method, the program has grown to include grades K-3, with 200 students enrolled – paving the way for other schools in Summit County.

Now all four elementary schools in the district (McPolin, Jeremy Ranch, Trailside and Parley’s Park) have integrated the second-language opportunity, in either Spanish or French, the first school district in the state to accomplish this feat, according to Lori Gardner, Associate Superintendent of Schools at PCSD.

In the coming weeks, McPolin Elementary will be determining if the program takes further leaps in preparing students linguistically. The PCSD is moving forward to assess the viability of a school-wide model for duel-immersion at the school, which would make dual-immersion available to 4th graders, according to Gardner.

The process for enrollment in dual-Immersion was defined four years ago at Parley’s Park. Following the model defined by the Utah State Office of Education, the school engaged in a Spanish pilot program.

According to Gardner, during the trial run, a two-way, 50/50 model which incorporated 50 percent native-English and 50 percent native Spanish speaking students together in classrooms. Each grade, K-3, has a target number of 50 students, with class sizes determined by the principal and district administrators, according to district standards of 23 students per teacher. In 2012, the Spanish model was replicated at McPolin, but now because of the program’s growth things need to be changed.

The programs at Jeremy Ranch and Trailside Elementary schools are different. They are considered a one-way model, which all students are learning the target language, French. Those too accommodate 50 students per grade.

"We wanted to have some choice for families," Gardner said. "At the other schools we have a larger Hispanic community. French can be useful in a resort community like Park City. It’s the language of resorts, business and the Olympics."

A Dual Immersion program specialist, school and district administrators, and parent representatives from the District Dual Immersion Committee, have begun to develop strategies and procedures that maximize opportunities for program enrollment for the 2014-15 school year.

"Upon review of the achievements and data from this coming year, we have enough students that are interested in enrolling in the Spanish program at McPolin. We can carry four classes instead of the two that are currently available," Gardner said. "Since this initiative has begun with our schools, it has been supported by the business community, state government and many legislators. Now we need input from the parents."

A survey has been distributed, and meetings are being planned for parents, faculty, and the community later in the month. Topics for the study include:

<li>Options for students entering after the first grade</li>

<li>Impacts on elementary and secondary staffing</li>

<li>Potential changes and the effects of Dual Language enrollment</li>

<li>The future of kindergarten DLI at Parley’s</li>

<li>Written protocol for lottery procedures</li>

"We are conducting a study because we understand this program is not an option every parent wants to participate in," Gardner said. "Think of it this way, if we had a school wide dual-immersion, every first grader at McPolin would get the opportunity to participate, unless the parent wishes to opt out. It’s up to them."

The survey, which is intended to gather district-wide opinion, is available at all four elementary schools, the school district office or online at pcschools.us. A duel-immersion blog has also been created for teachers, parents and community members to express opinions, also available at the PCSD website.

"At this point, we are assessing the community’s interest and feasibility of development in terms of building capacity for new classrooms, finances and staffing," Gardner said.

Surveys are due by Tuesday, April 30 and the dual-immersion blog will close on Friday, May 3. Based on the study, Gardner will be making a proposal during the PCSD monthly school board meeting held Tuesday, May 7.

 

 


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