Selah and Mabton school districts will both receive $100,000 state grants to develop dual language programs.
On Monday, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction named five school districts as recipients of grants to either develop or assist dual language programs. Dual language programs immerse students in two languages, with one language introducing concepts and information while the other will generally reinforce them.
Selah, Mabton and Bethel will each receive $50,000 a year for two years. Wenatchee and Bellevue, meanwhile, have been labeled as mentor school districts to receive state money to assist those districts with their dual language programs. Wenatchee receives $30,000 a year for two years to mentor Selah and Mabton.
A mentorship with Wenatchee will include inviting Selah and Mabton educators to classroom observations in their district and district-to-district consultation.
According to an OSPI news release, districts will spend money on instructional coaching, professional development, supplemental materials, program evaluation and the recruitment of bilingual teachers.
In Selah’s case, the adoption of its dual language classrooms has already begun. Four of the 14 kindergarten classes in Selah schools are dual language — English with Spanish, more specifically.
Next school year, dual language programs will enter first grade, said Rob Darling, principal of John Campbell Primary School. Dual language will expand into second grade in 2016, third grade in 2017, fourth grade in 2018, and fifth grade in 2019.
“All the research we’ve seen is for students to be truly biliterate, they need to be in the program through at least fifth grade,” he said.
Demand is overwhelming, said Darling. More than 100 students’ families were interested in the specific classroom, but about 60 had to be turned away. It is estimated about 25 percent of K-5 Selah classrooms will be taught in English and Spanish in the near future, he added.
Parents are not required to enroll their child in a dual-language class. The option has proven controversial with some parents, as Darling said a few parents have said they were “adamant not to teach their kids in Spanish.” He hopes parents brush aside politics and embrace the possibility of learning another language.
Administrators from the Mabton School District could not be reached for comment.