D203 mulls expanding language program for elementary students
By Hank Beckman For The Sun February 5, 2013 1:46PM
Updated: March 7, 2013 6:36AM
Naperville School District 203 is considering expanding its dual-language program for elementary school students.
Assistant Superintendent of Learning Jennifer Hester gave the Board of Education a glimpse of how the new program might look, and how much it would cost.
“We’ve had interest from the Board of Education and interest from parents,” Hester said after the presentation.
The district already has a dual language program in five elementary schools, whose purpose is to have classes made up of a roughly 50-50 split between English and Spanish speaking students.
Kindergarten students start out with 80 percent of the curriculum in Spanish and 20 percent in English. As students progress, the ratio gradually includes more English instruction until fifth grade, when the ratio is split evenly between the two languages.
But the district’s program is limited, with only Beebe and Maplewood currently offering complete programs and Mill Street, Elmwood and Steeple Run in various stages of development.
The current program’s cost is about $2.44 million. Expanding the program could see the cost expand to $4.55 million by the 2018-2019 school year.
Hester said that any expansion of the program would benefit from properly balancing students with different home languages. The presentation stressed that the proper mix of English and non-English speaking students is important.
“The ratio of the class is very important as the students are able to learn from one another,” she said.
Hester also presented information on an immersion program where students from English-speaking backgrounds would be immersed in Spanish, although Chinese and other languages are thought to be possible alternatives as well.
The expansion model for the program presented to the board carries an estimated cost of slightly more than $1 million for the current year and grows to an estimated cost of $4.51 million after six years.
A survey of parents indicated that 33 percent of them were interested in the programs and, while board members seemed enthusiastic about the general concept, several had questions about the cost.
Board member Terry Fielden noted that the district had other looming costs, including all-day kindergarten, pointing out that any action would be taken in response to a survey that had produced interest from only 33 percent of respondents.
Board member Suzyn Price noted that the models presented only called for a single section in each school.
“How is that then benefiting all students,” she asked.
Price went on to say that the district had limited resources and again stressed that any expansion or new program should be all-inclusive.
“The pie is only so big,” she said of the district’s budget. “It should enhance learning for all students ... it should benefit as many as possible.”
Superintendent Dan Bridges said that the presentation was not a proposal to the board and that the district would be studying the concept further while having further dialogue with the community.
“We’ll begin by continually improving our dual-language programs,” he said.