Across the Northside School District, parents are heading to local elementary schools to register their children for fall kindergarten classes.
At most schools, kindergarten roundup begins today. Registration for all grades will continue through April 30.
Two Northwest Side schools, Monroe May and Esparza, for the first time will be offering a dual-language pilot program.
Space is limited for the classes. Esparza will have one kindergarten class and one first-grade class participating; Monroe May will offer the dual-language instruction in one kindergarten class.
At Esparza, a school whose attendance boundaries encompass a largely Hispanic population, the program will enhance what is on the everyday soundtrack for students, even if they don’t speak Spanish at home, Principal Melva Matkin said.
“Ninety-six percent of our students are Hispanic. Even if they don’t speak the language, they are exposed to it. They have a good foundation, but it is in an oral tradition, not from an academic standpoint,” she noted.
North of Loop 1604 near Fiesta Texas, Monroe May’s attendance boundaries paint a different cultural picture. Parents are excited about it nonetheless.
“For a long time, (parents) wanted a full-integration Spanish program, so that children are learning to speak two languages rather than being phased out (of Spanish),” said PTA president Susie Watts, referring to the district’s ESL program Ol.
The Ol program still will be available, district bilingual coordinator Arci Rodriguez said. The dual-language program is designed to promote fluency in both languages in all subject areas, rather than teaching Spanish-speaking students to become proficient in English, like Ol.
“More and more people are coming to realize the value of having a second language. The business sector has really taken notice, especially of Spanish- speaking workers. If we are going to prepare students for the global economy, this is an invaluable asset,” he said.
For both schools, the program will be structured on what is called a 90-10 model, Rodriguez said. Each year another grade level will be included.
This year, kindergarten and first grade for Esparza will be taught 90 percent in Spanish and 10 percent in English; second grade, 80 percent Spanish and 20 percent English; third grade, 70-30; fourth, 60-40; and fifth, 50-50.
It is the same model used by Bonham Elementary School in the San Antonio School District. The school received an acceptable accountability rating from the Texas Education Agency for the 1999-2000 school year.
Matkin said elementary school-age children are ripe for this type of instruction.
“Before a child turns 11, the brain can really adapt. It is a window of opportunity to learn a second or even third language,” she said.
Kay Montgomery, principal at Monroe May, said that there has always been a waiting list for parents who want their children to attend Ol classes for some exposure to Spanish. She said she expects the same response for the dual-language program.
“What really sold me on the program was talking to the kids who were in other dual-language schools. They were really confident in their abilities in both languages. I met a fifth-grader who had been in the program since kindergarten. No one in her household spoke Spanish, but she was fluent, and the way she pronounced her words and used her accents was amazing,” Montgomery said.