Friday, September 28, 2012

District considers Dual Immersion options

School officials seek public input before decisions are made

Express Staff Writer

Now entering its 12th year, the Blaine County School District’s Dual Immersion program may undergo significant change soon in ways that district officials hope will make the program operate more effectively.

Dual Immersion involves mixing native Spanish-speaking students with native English-speaking students and instructing the class in both English and Spanish, with the goal of making students fluent in both languages. Students start Dual Immersion studies as kindergarteners and continue with the same classmates throughout their school years.

Started in 2001, the first group of district Dual Immersion students are now 11th-graders.

The proposed changes would specifically affect the some 600 K-5 students now enrolled in Dual Immersion studies at all four of the district’s elementary schools.

The district has considered several options during the past year for K-5 Dual Immersion, but the board of trustees earlier this month approved narrowing the choices down to just two.

The first would involve making Woodside Elementary School in south Hailey into what is called a “magnet school” for exclusive Dual Immersion studies. Under the proposal, Dual Immersion students now at Bellevue and Hailey elementary schools would join their counterparts at Woodside. The option would not affect north valley Dual Immersion students, who would continue attending Hemingway Elementary School.

Under the second option, one classroom of Dual Immersion students per grade level would be established at each of the four elementary schools.

Either option would eventually eliminate the need for Dual Immersion elementary students to transfer to new schools at different grade levels. For example, Bellevue Elementary School currently has only Dual Immersion classes for grades K-2 while Hailey Elementary School currently has them for grades 3-5.

According to a press release from the School District, either option would make the program operate more efficiently and effectively and provide greater future sustainability.

The district has scheduled two public meetings to explain the options and obtain parent or public input. The first is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 6 p.m. at Woodside Elementary School, while the second is set for Monday, Oct. 8, at 6 p.m.  at the Community Campus in Hailey.

The school board anticipates making a final decision before the end of the year.

Terry Smith:

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