District offers first dual language class
MONROE - For the first time this upcoming school year, parents can enroll their children in a kindergarten class that will be taught in both English and Spanish, the two most common languages spoken in the district.
This will be the first dual language class offered in the Monroe School District. The class will be offered at Frank Wagner Elementary.
Enrollment for this class will be on a first come, first served basis. The class needs at least 22 students enrolled to happen. If more than 50 sign up, the district will create a waiting list for the following school year.
About 12 percent of families in the district say Spanish is their primary language, district spokeswoman Rosemary O’Neil said.
“It is something that Frank Wagner has talked about for several years; it’s kind of a natural next step for that school” because it has a lot of native Spanish speakers, O’Neil said.
The students will be together in class but separated for instruction, according to a district press release. One teacher or more will be bilingual and bi-literate (able to read and write in the second language). An equal mix of native English speakers and native Spanish speakers is necessary as instruction is led for part of the day in English and part of the day in Spanish.
The dual language class will be all day Monday through Friday from 8:50 a.m. to 3:25 p.m.
This is the time of year when parents need to start thinking about enrolling their kids in kindergarten. The district has scheduled two nights in March to learn about kindergarten options.
A kindergarten information night is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1 at each elementary school.
A dual language program information night is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 13 at Frank Wagner, 115 Dickinson Street.
Parents should try to make their choice for kindergarten early, O’Neil said.
“We have to look at the number of families making those choices by the middle of April in order to do the planning for September,” she said.
If they wait, their preferred option might not be available, she said.
The district strives to offer a variety of education choices for families, O’Neil said.
“We certainly live every day in the model that one size does not fit all,” she said.
There are two teachers planning to teach the dual language class, O’Neil said. Jessica Conte and Melanie Dugan are both excited and jumped at the chance to teach the new class, she said.
“We’re very fortunate the new curriculum for literacy, which is reading and writing, and for math, came with materials in Spanish,” O’Neil said.
Learning in two languages can have a brain-boosting effect, a district press release says.
Students in dual language programs at school commonly do well in all subjects, meeting or exceeding district and state standards, it says.
“Researchers attribute this success to the students’ ability to think and speak in two languages which opens a part of the brain that is then more flexible for problem solving, divergent thinking and pattern recognition,” the press release says.
The district plans to add a dual language class to an additional grade level each year if the program is popular. It is open to all students in the district, but those living outside the Frank Wagner bus service area must have their own transportation.
The dual language class is just one of many choices parents of kindergarten students can make. They can have their child attend class two days a week, with alternating Fridays, attend class for half a day every day, or attend class all day every day. Parents who want their kids in all-day kindergarten will pay tuition for the extra instruction.
All-day kindergarten is the preferred choice for most parents, O’Neil said.
“Research shows that’s what’s best suited for young people to move on to having high standards and being successful, so we try to make the all-day everyday option as affordable as we can for families,” she said.
Students on the free or reduced lunch program can apply for a discount on the tuition for all-day kindergarten, and the school board approved a new fee structure earlier this month that offers a more favorable discount to families, O’Neil said.
The district also is working with the Monroe Y to offer a Jump Start program this August for soon-to-be kindergarteners who did not attend preschool.
“In this economy, we all have to make cuts and choices and what some families let go of is the opportunity for their child to go to preschool,” which can give children a good foundation for what to expect in kindergarten, O’Neil said.
The Jump Start program also includes parent education nights to help parents assist their children with the transition into school.
The district is using a Title 1 federal grant to offer all-day kindergarten at Frank Wagner at no additional cost to parents. The grant also allows the district to offer a dual language class.
By STEPHANIE KOSONEN
Published Feb. 29, 2012