School board unanimously approves dual-language program

Students in an experimental kindergarten class at Fairhaven School in Mundelein could be taught in Spanish and English next year.

The class is part of a test program approved this week by Diamond Lake School District 76 officials. The class would be voluntary – parents will choose whether to enter their kids in the program.

About 90 percent of the class curriculum, especially language arts, would be in Spanish. Some subjects, like gym and music, still would be taught in English.

According to the school board’s plan, the class would include 22 students. Half would come from English-speaking families, and half would come from homes where Spanish is the primary language.

Ideally, the children would stay in the same group all the way through fourth grade, Superintendent Gary Clair said.

“And by fifth grade, the children are totally bilingual,” he said.

Because the program is optional, it won’t take place if not enough parents register their children for the class. Educators probably would try to fill the class again the following year, Clair said.

Studies have shown that children are most open to learning second languages at young ages, Clair said. Most English-speaking students usually don’t learn a second language until middle or high school.

Because of the early jump the students in the dual-language class would get, the program is expected to raise achievement test scores.

“It’s a smart thing to do,” Clair said.

Fairhaven includes students in kindergarten, first grade and second grade. If the program is a success, it would continue in third and fourth grade at Diamond Lake Elementary School.

In addition, another dual-language kindergarten class could be formed in the 1999-2000 school year when the inaugural group of students moves onto first grade.

Eventually, there would be one dual-language class for each grade level through fourth grade, Clair said.

The program was unanimously approved by the school board.

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