This fall, the Indian River School District will add East Millsboro Elementary School to its roster of facilities offering the Spanish immersion program.
The program, which is an initiative out of Gov. Jack Markell's office, was first instituted last year at John M. Clayton Elementary School.
"Because of the success of our students at John M. Clayton, we wanted to replicate the program," said Audrey Carey, supervisor of elementary instruction for IRSD.
According to an IRSD news release, the Spanish immersion program "gives young learners the opportunity to acquire a second language in a developmentally-appropriate format. Kindergarten students will spend half of each school day learning in English and the other half of the day learning in Spanish. Students selected for the program will be eligible to continue through the fifth grade. They will then have the opportunity to continue Spanish instruction at the middle and high school levels."
Kelly Dorman, principal of ESEM, said the Spanish teacher will do instruction in math, science, and social studies, while reading and writing will be taught in English. There will be two groups of about 20 students each that will switch languages at the middle of the day.
"I think one of the most important things we're doing is we're allowing students the opportunity to become bilingual," Dorman said. "As educators, it's our job to prepare them for college and careers. Knowing a second language will allow them to have that opportunity to be better prepared, depending on what field they enter."
Carey said the governor's office asked certain districts to begin implementing this program because "we were graduating students who were academically ready for college; however, when they competed against their global peers for jobs, they were not often hired because they lacked the second language."
The program is modeled after a similar effort in Utah, where schools offer Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, German and French. The Caesar Rodney School District is offering Mandarin Chinese. Carey said IRSD chose Spanish because it is the second world leading language and the district has a few select students whose first language is already Spanish.
"It would be difficult for them to learn Mandarin Chinese when they're trying to learn English as well as learn to read and write in their home language," she said.
The Spanish instructor at JMCES came from Madrid, Spain, where representatives from the state Department of Education are this week, looking for two more instructors. One will begin teaching first graders at JMCES, while the other teaches kindergarten at ESEM. If all goes well, the district will hire another instructor for next year's ESEM first graders.
There is already a waiting list for ESEM's program. Carey said the school will hold a lottery to determine which students are accepted.
Page 2 of 2 - "At the end of this, we're just thrilled to offer students the gift of another language," Carey said. "So regardless of what they do – whether they enter college or a technical field – they'll have that gift."