Members of the Dual Immersion Committee addressed the Springfield School Board on Feb. 10 to share their recommendation for bringing dual immersion into middle school. Aliya Hall/The Chronicle
SPRINGFIELD - The Dual Immersion Committee presented its program recommendation to the Springfield School Board as the district rolls out an expansion of dual immersion curriculum into middle school.
Four committee members, led by Laura Weiss, assistant principal at Guy Lee Elementary, recommended, during the Feb. 10 Springfield School Board meeting, two core-content classes in Spanish in either a language arts, social studies or humanities block, for all grade levels.
”There are four key considerations that are non-negotiable as we look to build a program that can be implemented successfully and sustainably,” Weiss said.
Those considerations are: program duration, as it takes more than six years to reach native-like proficiency; language allocation – the ratio in use between English and the partner language; literacy instruction - separate blocks taught in both English and the partner language; and student demographics, which are the current fifth-grade dual immersion students from Guy Lee Elementary, including Spanish heritage language speakers and beginning English learners.
Weiss added that the committee would like the program to consider expanding into three core-content classes in the future, and to also consider rollout for high school.
The curriculum will be ready for 2020-21 rollout in the fall, and committee members said as soon as they receive approval from the board, they will partner with the Human Resources Department to hire a teacher for that role. Money to support the program will be a mix of the general fund and Title I federal funds that the school will apply for.
Greg Oldson, parent and committee member, said that parental support is vital and dual immersion programs bring families and community members together through providing cultural events that go along with the coursework, which will go beyond teaching students just the language component.
”As a parent, parent communication is incredibly important and helps involvement,” he said. ”Getting parents involved in a dual language program or any program is a key to success.”
Board director and committee member Emilio Hernandez expressed concern that he wants to get the program to a place where the federal government can't get involved with the program and ruin the district's momentum.
”With all the negative stuff coming out against immigration and bilingual education, where does Oregon - and Springfield - get to come out and say we're not abiding by this?” he asked. ”It's not just a benefit for Latinx or South American students. Are parents going to have to worry about their board saying, 'We don't have to deal with that because the government says we don't have to.'”
There were three public comments in support of the program. One parent of a third-grade and a kindergarten student, Jamie Barnett, reiterated support of community and family engagement. She said that during a meeting with assistant superintendent David Collins about the program's history, she learned that it has suffered due to constant change and she requested that the board take this momentum to move forward with a K-12 strategy for the immersion program.
Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president Elizabeth Miglioretto added that there are many parents that care and pointed out a lack of interpreters at the board meeting, which the PTO has at their meetings to encourage engagement with all parents.
Board director Naomi Raven, who also serves on the committee, said that this committee was a great example of Springfield coming together, especially because creating this recommendation for the middle school meant they had more to think about, such as electives and how much students can still choose what they're interested in.
”(The program) shows how important it is to wrap arms around the whole family of students and embrace the culture of the whole family,” she said. ”That's the humanity in this; welcoming and teaching that culture, it goes much further beyond just the words.”