A bilingual immersion program is coming to two elementary schools in Loudoun County.
At the August 16 Special Programs and Centers Committee meeting, school district staff members announced that Potowmack Elementary School in Sterling and Sanders Corner Elementary School in Ashburn had been selected to host the program, which could be launched next fall.
The plan is to have two kindergarten classes per school teaching 50/50 English and Spanish, with teachers changing halfway through the day, meaning students would be learning Spanish half the day. day and English the other half.
Suzette Wyhs, supervisor of world languages and cultures, told the committee that students would learn to read in two languages simultaneously.
“They will receive reading, writing and literacy instruction primarily in Spanish and English in addition to having access to content,” Wyhs said. She said this means they will also be able to learn math in Spanish.
The plan, according to Wyhs, is to add a grade level each year starting with kindergarten in the 2023-23 school year, then adding first grade the following year and so on. “By sixth grade, all K-5 grades will be included in the program,” Wyhs said.
Neil Slevin, executive director of teaching and learning, said they were delighted to offer another expanded opportunity for students.
Schools were selected through a process that included an interest survey sent out in June. This survey revealed great interest in having a bilingual immersion program in the county, according to the presentation. The next step was an information session on June 29 for all principals. Interested schools then submitted their forms by July 29 indicating that they were interested in hosting the program. A committee then used a decision matrix to determine which would be recommended.
Committee chair Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) said the schools’ interest survey impacted her the most in the process.
“If a school isn’t interested, it won’t make it, because you just can’t tell a school it’s going to. So this piece really stands out for me, and I make sure schools want to do it. If they accept, they will succeed,” she said.
School board member Tom Marshall (Leesburg) said he is delighted and hopes the program will be extended once it launches.
In deciding which schools to choose, school staff members looked at criteria such as alignment with community interest survey, leadership interest, building capacity which also included any changes limit, transportation, English learner population and percentage of language spoken at home. – in this case, Spanish – for the 50/50 model. Other languages considered were Korean, Chinese and Japanese.
A one-year timeline was presented to show when the program would begin at both schools, scheduled for the 2023-2024 school year.
The bilingual program was previously approved as part of the budget process. It will now go to another school board vote, although the date for that vote is yet to be set.