Springfield schools to launch dual language program

The Springfield City School District will launch a dual language program for the next academic school year because of the drastic increase of students for whom English is not their first language.

“The district has recently experienced an exponential increase in non-native English speaking students,” said Jenna Leinasars, communications specialist. “Among the most common languages spoken in the district outside of English are Spanish, Haitian Creole and French.”

ELL students are those whose primary language is not English, but they are working toward speaking it and eliminating any barriers to their academic success.

Through the new program, students will begin the journey to bilingual education where half of the day will be taught in English and the other half will be taught in Spanish.

“The (program) will educate both English-speaking learners and Spanish-speaking learners in a bilingual, biliterate environment in which instruction takes place in each language 50% of the time. It is classified as a two-way immersion program, distinguished from other dual language models in that it uses two languages for content and literacy instruction for all participating students,” said Kaylin Hunsaker, Coordinator of State and Federal Programs.

The pilot year will begin at Perrin Woods Elementary with one kindergarten and one first grade class that has a balance of native Spanish and native English speakers.

The number of ELL students in the district has steadily increased over the last six years by 739 students, and is “expected to climb as student enrollment mirrors population trends within Springfield,” the school previously reported based off district data.

The district currently has 1,036 ELL students, which is an increase of 109 students from the first half of the 2023-24 school year when there was 927 students.

In the 2022-23 school year, there was a 8.5%, of 610 students, of the district’s student population were ELL students.

In the 2018-19 school year, there were 297 ELL students.

The ELL in each building are: 145 at Fulton, 111 at Hayward, 64 at Horace Mann, 57 at Kenwood, 40 at Lagonda, 104 at Lincoln, 57 at Perrin Woods, 22 at Roosevelt, 10 at Schaefer, 38 at Simon Kenton, 23 at Snowhill, 64 at Snyder Park, 32 at Warder Park Wayne, four at the School of Innovation, three in Springfield City Online and 262 at Springfield High School.

Springfield residents “voiced overwhelming support” for an English/Spanish dual language elementary program when they were surveyed by the district last year, Leinasars said. Over 75% of those surveyed thought a dual language program would be beneficial and nearly 65% said they would be interested in enrolling their children in such a program.

“Those numbers alone say that there is interest in Springfield for such a program,” Leinasars said. “Our district is excited for the many positive outcomes that we believe this program will produce including further promoting inclusivity within our schools and community, increased academic achievement through advanced language mastery and career-readiness skills in today’s global job market.”

This dual language program is part of a bigger 13-year plan, where the classes will eventually incorporate Heritage Spanish Courses in middle school and students will advance toward achieving the Ohio Seal of Biliteracy in high school.

“As the program grows, the district will be open and flexible to adjusting the program to align with student needs, community interest and measured program outcomes,” Hunsaker said.

The district continues to work to address the languages and barriers that come with the ELL increase in several ways, including basic and general communication in multiple languages, English for Speakers of Other Languages teachers, specialized textbooks and materials, bilingual assistants and professional development (PD).

To help, the district created “language cheat sheets” that include common words, phrases or pictures; about 100 flashcards of key terms in a classroom for each school building and put them up so students can see what the words are for; and have audio of common phrases so students can hear the language and learn it.

The school has staff in the department who are fluent in other languages to help those children in the classroom. There are 13 full-time English for Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL, teachers that cover 15 schools, as well as eight bilingual assistants. Since the fall of last year, one part-time bilingual assistant and a long-term substitute has been hired.

For this new program, the district will hire two classroom teachers. Once the elementary program “reaches maturity,” the district anticipates the program will require seven instructors.

“The bridge programming for dual language students in grades 7-12 will connect students to existing district programs that will continue to support their language acquisition, including the district’s Heritage Spanish courses, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and College Credit Plus opportunities,” Hunsaker said.

The district is currently hiring teachers for the program. Interested applicants can refer to the district’s Human Resources’ job application website for more information at applitrack.com.

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