A summer program that immerses children in English instruction has become a high point for Wheeling Township elementary school officials.

The Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 English academy program is helping more than 500 students this summer learn more about what, for many, is their second language.

District 21 officials are calling the program they developed in the second half of the 1998-99 school year a success.

“Getting all the staffing was the most challenging part, but we were able to pull it together,” Assistant Superintendent William S. Myers said.

Under the program, more than 500 District 21 students in kindergarten through the eighth grade attend classes at Whitman, Field and Twain elementary schools, and Holmes Middle School, all in Wheeling.

The program includes 32 instructors who either have experience teaching English as a second language, music or are teaching interns from Illinois State University.

Myers said the program includes music teachers because educational research shows students can learn English through music.

District 21 officials developed the program in response to projections showing an increase in enrollment of students whose first language is not English.

According to the district’s estimates, its number of students with limited English proficiency could increase from 1,088 this past school year to 1,277 this fall.

The objective of the six-week, three-hour morning program is to teach students enough English to prepare them for mainstream classes in the fall, or reduce their time in English as a Second Language or bilingual education programs, Myers said.

District 21 officials said those students learn enough English to enter mainstream courses sooner, and this saves the school system money.

To gain students for the program, teachers promoted the courses to some parents while others enrolled their children upon hearing such classes were available.

“The kids will benefit from it in many ways,” District 21 school board President Arlen S. Gould said.

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