Starting with the 2019-2020 school year, Foster Elementary in Arvada will be expanding its K-6 duel language program to seventh grade. The pilot program hopes to continue to eighth grade the …
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Starting with the 2019-2020 school year, Foster Elementary in Arvada will be expanding its K-6 duel language program to seventh grade. The pilot program hopes to continue to eighth grade the following year.
“We really have this belief that to give our kids this opportunity is really a precious gift,” said Karen Quanbeck, chief of schools elementary. “To have the ability to read and write and speak in two languages is an amazing asset.”
In 2004, Foster Elementary started the first two-way dual language education program in Jefferson County Public Schools. The framework allows students from both Spanish and English speaking homes to become bilingual, biliterate and understand other cultures.
Foster is a neighborhood school and over 70 percent of the students in the duel language program are from the neighborhood. The school also runs a 30-50 student wait-list for this program.
Foster Elementary Principal Leigh Hiester said that in 2003 the idea was presented to her to start the duel language program and at that time it was selling a dream.
“I was telling people what it was going to be and they didn’t have anything to compare it to and they believed in it,” Hiester said, adding that now two-thirds of the school is in the program. “Now our parents are saying we want another dream.”
When the district was implementing the move of sixth grade students to middle schools in the spring of 2017, Foster families requested that the school be able to keep their sixth-graders because of the duel language program. The Jeffco board of education agreed.
There is currently no formal middle school program for two-way dual language education in Jeffco, therefore, the parents and students are now asking to extend this program to seventh and eighth grades, as a sustainable way to extend two-way dual language education into middle school.
According to Hiester, over 40 percent of Foster’s sixth grade dual language students attend schools out of district when they matriculate out of Foster.
Hiester believes that adding the additional grades will also promote the Jeffco Seal of Biliteracy — an award given to recognize students who have studied and attained proficiency in two or more languages by high school graduation.
Students enrolled in the duel language program start in kindergarten with half native English speakers and half native Spanish speakers. They start learning literacy in their native language. By first grade, students spend 60 percent in their native language and the rest in their second language. Starting in third grade, they split time half and half learning every subject in both languages.
Hiester said the school will be able to house the seventh grade students by using the facility space it has creatively.
Foster is slated for a six classroom addition through the recently-approved school bond. The long-term plan is that those six classrooms will help in expanding the program to include eighth grade.
Moving forward the school will need to decide if they will remain a neighborhood school with a program or become an option school with a school-wide duel language program.
“It’s important to us that we remain a neighborhood school and we need to engage our current families in both programs and determine what the next steps would be.” Quanbeck said. “We felt like right now we need another year for the conversations to continue and figure out what our families want.”
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