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Midvale Journal

Spanish dual language immersion to expand to two area schools this fall

Apr 06, 2020 03:29PM ● By Julie Slama

Altara Elementary, as well as Midvalley Elementary, will house Spanish dual immersion in the fall. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This April, many parents of Canyons School District students will be searching their email for notification if their children were placed in the Spanish dual language immersion program in a special springtime lottery.

That’s because next fall, Altara Elementary in Sandy and Midvalley Elementary in Midvale will launch Spanish DLI programs.

The Canyons Board of Education approved the expansion of the Spanish program in early February after receiving input from those communities and in response to a current waitlist of 93 students wanting Spanish DLI. The waitlist for 2020–21 is at 114 students.

Currently, Canyons School District offers Spanish at three elementary schools.

In local elementary schools, DLI students spend half their school day learning the English language and half the day learning math, science or social studies in the target language. There are two teachers: one who teaches in English, and one, usually a native speaker, who only speaks the target language to students after the initial months when first graders are enrolled in the program.

Next year’s programs at these schools will introduce dual immersion in first grade and a one-time second-grade start, said Altara Principal Nicole Svee Magann.

“We’re excited to have dual language immersion at Altara,” she said. “Spanish is a good life skill and it will infuse the school with new energy. Altara is a warm, welcoming place and with our new students and parents, we will give both our dual language learners and our non-dual-language students a chance to learn and celebrate Hispanic culture. We don’t want it to be DLI students and neighborhood school students. We are Altara, and we can all learn from one another.”

Svee Magann said it’s a good time to introduce the program at her school since first-grade enrollment is less than usual. An expected boost in enrollment with DLI should help to bring enrollment back up to about 600 students from the current 485.

An expected 56 students in first and in second grades are expected at both schools, she said, adding that the lottery for both schools was expected to be held in March.

Svee Magann said that although some boundary students will get priority, admission will be a formula factoring the number of students who apply as well as those who are on the waitlist.

Midvalley also should be equipped to handle extra enrollment; the new school building that is projected to open this fall is being built for an enrollment of up to 800 students, she said.

At Altara, all teachers will remain on staff while additional Spanish-instruction teachers will be hired to teach DLI, Svee Magann said.

Another advantage to introducing the program at Altara is that many students may now choose to attend Mt. Jordan Middle School, with its Spanish DLI program, alleviating some of the numbers who fill the halls at Indian Hills Middle School, she added.

Already Altara’s emails and automated telephone calls are in both English and Spanish as Hispanic students comprise 11% of the current population.

“The Hispanic enrollment has had a huge increase in the last seven years I’ve been here,” Svee Magann said. “This program is something the community has wanted and reached out to the board. I thank the board for listening.”

The result was from a district DLI committee who had met many times during the past year, said Ofelia Wade, dual language immersion Spanish coordinator for the district.

“We studied, analyzed and thought through ideas,” Wade said. “It was a long, worthy process, which we involved the community and explored valid, feasible ideas. Spanish is the highest demand in Canyons district based on a survey we sent to parents and perspective parents.”

Another consideration was to house an entire Spanish-speaking school, kindergarten through 12th, in the former Crescent View Middle School building.

“In other states, that is a more common structure. We looked at ideas and explored new ways to support our programs long term and make learning accessible,” she said.

Earlier this year, Wade and the Canyons DLI program held a parent night outlining testing and other new ways to monitor student progress in targeted languages.

Now, parents can access their students’ 2019 language test score results through family access on the Skyward student management system, where they can see listening and speaking scores in third, fifth and seventh grades and reading and writing test results in fourth, sixth, eighth and ninth grades. Proficiency reports will be used in first through third grades.

“Usually teachers move at a higher level — they push them, similarly to how you communicate with an infant and toddler and they learn advanced language skills and put words together in sentences,” Wade said. “This prepares them through elementary and into their secondary school years.”

In addition, students will be taking the district-wide standard base assessment given three times — August, January and April, she said.