A Des Plaines elementary district’s early childhood program is enjoying record enrollment this year thanks to offering services in more than one language.
The program in Des Plaines Elementary District 62 has more than 900 children enrolled, exceeding the 750 it had last year.
New early childhood director Teresia C. Louer attributes the increase, in part, to an effort to offer its programs in Spanish and English.
“We’re looking at family needs,” she said. “I think that (dual language programs) makes our family comfortable.”
Special Program Arranged Regarding Kids (SPARK) is an umbrella program that provides many activities for child care, pre-school children and those now attending full-day classes.
Its offerings include before- and after-school programs, a toy lending library that lets parents sign-out educational toys for their children up to age 5 and story times for pre-school age children.
Louer said, for example, that the storytimes are offered now in Spanish and English. Also, the toy lending library has a specialist who speaks Spanish.
Additionally, SPARK has a course to teach parents how to serve as volunteers in the program, Louer said.
Louer took over last year when the former SPARK director, Mary Ellen Bleeden, left to become the principal of South School in the district.
Like Bleeden, Louer promises to keep SPARK progressive and, for example, she’ll seek accreditation from a national education organization for its before- and after-school program.
Such accreditation means SPARK adheres to strict guidelines for developing its before- and after-school offerings, Louer said.
Last year, a national organization accredited SPARK for its programs serving 3- to 5-year-olds.
SPARK-related programs are offered in nine of the district’s 11 schools.