NEW BRITAIN—Parents asked the board of education Monday to reconsider a proposal to restructure the bilingual education program, saying they were concerned it might hurt rather than help students.
A group of mothers, most of whose children attend Holmes Elementary School, complained that the plan to move students in the bilingual program to different schools each year will jeopardize interaction between students and also hurt continuity and parental involvement.
“Even though my kindergarten daughter doesn’t speak Spanish, she’s already waving ‘hello’ and trying to make friends with the small children in the bilingual classroom next door,” said parent Chris Ruccapriorie. “Now is when friendships are starting. If those children are going to be moved again next year, and new children will come in, where’s the continuity, where’s the chance to get to know each other?”
Under the proposal, bilingual classes that serve two grades would be eliminated. Instead, each elementary school would serve as a host to a specific grade. Students in the bilingual program would be reassigned from school to school depending on what grade they were in.
“One problem that concerns me is that the parents of the bilingual students were told about this, but not the rest of the school parents,” Diane Melley said. “Whatever happens in any school affects all of us, not just the bilingual.”
Melley said the school system was at a crossroads, having achieved ethnic balance throughout the system.
“It gets to be frustrating to hear about what’s going on and not be included,” she said.
School board President James Sanders said parent concerns were valid, adding that the bilingual class reorganization is still just being considered.
“There’s still some work to be done on it,” Sanders said. “I’m not convinced that it’s the way to benefit students.”
In other business Monday, the board adopted a 24-page report on quality education and integration, a state-mandated document that will be used by a regional committee to draft a plan to promote equal education and ethnic diversity in school systems.
Applauding the appointed committee that drafted the report, board members said their only concern was the cost of the suggestions in the plan.
“I see funding as the roadblock to a lot of this,” said board member Michael Carrier.
“This would be great,” he said, referring to the recommendaions in the report, “but we need more money.”
Among the committee recommendations were additional courses, integrating Spanish and English-speaking students, and regional after-school programs.
Lynn Cromwell, who served as committee facilitator, said state officials have assured the group that the legislature is aware that the recommendations will require additional money.