Spanish-language program graduates to middle school |

Spanish-language program graduates to middle school

Axie Navas

Bijou Community School’s Two-Way Immersion program is about to enter middle school.

The Spanish-language immersion program that launched six years ago at the elementary school will start next year at South Tahoe Middle School after the Lake Tahoe Unified School District board approved the Two-Way Immersion Secondary Pathway Tuesday night.

“We’re really excited about Two-Way Immersion coming to the middle school,” STMS Principal Beth Delacour said. “For kids to speak two languages, how fabulous is that? For kids to be literate in two languages, even better. We’re totally supportive of this program going forward.”

There were 11 Two-Way Immersion classes, which combine English speakers and Spanish speakers in the same room to promote biliteracy, at Bijou during the 2012-13 school year. Teachers start kindergartners with a 90/10 curriculum — 90 percent in Spanish, 10 percent in English. By fifth grade, the students learn in classes split evenly between Spanish and English instruction.

LTUSD Administrative Intern and South Tahoe High School teacher Maria Luquín outlined an eight-year progression for the program at Tuesday’s board meeting. The next major step is hiring a qualified teacher with a Bilingual Crosscultural Language in Academic Development certification. According to an estimation from LTUSD, it would cost $39,803 to hire that bilingual instructor. That money would come from the general fund but would be offset by current faculty restructuring in the district, LTUSD spokeswoman Angie Keil said.

LTUSD Superintendent James Tarwater said the district will have to start planning ahead in order to have the funds for the program and eventually to implement new courses at the high school level.

“We know it’s going to have an impact, but the kids drive the program. With something rich like this, there will be a big reward … We’re watching grants. There’s opportunity because it’s an area where we do really well,” Tarwater said.

The school can also fill Two-Way Immersion positions with current staff members who hold multiple credentials, according to Luquín.

Luquín said that the middle school could offer a social science class in Spanish next year for Two-Way Immersion graduates and strong Spanish speakers. By the 2014-15 school year, she hoped that STMS would have a Native Spanish class that could be adjusted based on the students’ language skills.

When those students enter STHS, Luquín said she envisioned introducing science, history, visual performing arts and language classes in Spanish between 2016 and 2021.

That curriculum will help students receive college credit or even a double major as well as provide future job opportunities, she said.

“Yes, they’re in fifth grade and I’m already thinking of college,” Luquín said Tuesday. “Native-like fluency will enhance any choice of study, any career … We do have the population and as we see more Latino students, I do think we have the numbers.”

In other LTUSD school board news:

The school board approved the implementation of California’s State Seal of Biliteracy awards Tuesday night.

The seal was established by Assembly Bill 815 to recognize high school graduates with a high-level of speaking, reading and writing skills in a language other than English, according to a California Department of Education press release.

LTUSD would offer the seal to fifth-, eighth- and 12th-grade graduates who demonstrate strong language skills, according to Luquín.

She estimated the total cost of the program at $600 and said the awards for all three age categories could be implemented next year.

“By having this seal from the state of California, it could validate those (language) skills,” Luquín said.

More than 10,000 California high school graduates earned the state’s first seal last year for achieving proficiency in multiple languages.

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