A myriad of obstacles, not the least of which is funding, could spell the end for a seven-year program in Community Unit District 300 that gives young English-speaking students the opportunity to learn Spanish.
At the Monday night school board meeting, district administrator Charles Bumbales outlined the work and conclusions of an education subcommittee, charged with the task of studying options for the Carpentersville-based district’s dual language program – offered only at Golfview Elementary and DeLacey Education Family Center, both in Carpentersville.
Nine months of research, interviews and visitations with school districts that have similar programs led the group to recommend the program be abandoned by the 2002 academic year.
The reasons were many, most relating to cost.
Bumbales said most of the grants available for the program dried up two years ago, leaving the Carpentersville-based district footing the bill for the eight classes or roughly 180 children. The costs of transporting students to the two designated sites, implementing after school activities for students to practice the language and recruiting bilingual teachers – who are already hard to find – is formidable, the subcommittee concluded.
But the biggest reason for abandoning the program is not how much more the district would have to invest in order to continue operating the program in the future, but operate the program now.
“It’s a viable program – we’re not saying it wasn’t a good idea in the first place – but it’s never developed into the ideal model it was supposed to be,” Bumbales said.
The perfect 50-50 split of native and English speakers has never been achieved.
“It would require us to convince parents to send their kids on a bus to a magnet site and enroll in this program,” Bumbales said. “With all of the things going on, it’s just too much.”
At it’s most basic level, the dual language program is designed to combine English-speaking and Spanish-speaking students of the same grade-level in a classroom. Instruction, initially, is predominantly in Spanish and then gradually, over a period of years, is in English.
Ideally, every student will be able to speak another language at the end of the program, as well as, “perform at or above grade levels in academic areas and demonstrate positive cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors,” Bumbales said.
This method provides a unique alternative to some of the roughly 2,000 Spanish-speaking children who would otherwise enter a bilingual education program.
The greatest beneficiaries of the dual language program, however, are the English-speaking grade school students, who would otherwise have to wait until middle school until they enrolled in foreign language classes.
“By then, it’s a nine-week exploratory class and they really don’t have a firm grasp on the language until high school,” Bumbales said. “(Dual language) is a radically different approach because we’re immersing a 5 or 6-year-old.”
It is the English-speaking students who will be impacted the most if board members decide at their March 12 meeting to discontinue the program, because Spanish-speaking students can still transition into a bilingual education class.