Colorado bilingual schools are just starting to take off

Dual-language schools – those that offer equal instruction in English and Spanish – are just starting to take hold in Colorado.

Of the handful across the state, the most successful dual-language school is the Washington Bilingual School in Boulder. Other schools with a similar model are in Fort Collins and Brighton.

In Denver, a proposal for a dual-language school in the northwest part of the city was very contentious and split neighborhood residents. In fact, during last year’s election, the issue cost one school-board member her position, while another championed the dual-language school all the way into office.

The dual-language school in northwest Denver is scheduled to open in two years.

Bilingual education has been a hot issue in Denver.

For years, Hispanic advocates fought Denver Public Schools over what they said was an inadequate bilingual-education program. The goal of bilingual education is to teach Spanish-speaking kids English so they can take regular subjects in English.

Among the parents’ concerns: There weren’t enough Spanish-speaking teachers in the school district, where more than 15,000 of the 70,000 students speak little or no English; and not enough resources were being put into that program.

The debate went as far as the U.S. Office of Civil Rights before a judge ordered that DPS overhaul its bilingual-education program, one that is still being monitored by the U.S. government.

In Colorado, of the 708,000 students in the public school system, about 10 percent speak little or no English.

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