School officials plan to move forward with adding a second series of Bilingual Dual Immersion language classes for the 2014-2015 school year, however the additional program classes will be located at William McKinley Elementary, according to Dr. Tom Kissinger, Director of Elementary Education.
In a report to the Board of Education Thursday, April 17, Kissinger detailed the decision district officials made, once they realized that the current site of the growing Spanish-language Dual Immersion Program at Walt Disney Elementary could not contain two full cohorts, or specialized series, of K – 5 classes.
“The community needs and really wants a second Dual Immersion class,” said Kissinger. “McKinley is the perfect site for a K – 5 Dual Immersion program.”
A full cohort of classes in the program requires six classrooms, and while Disney can accommodate six classes, finding room for 12 would be nearly impossible. After checking around, McKinley Elementary seemed best suited to add six classrooms for the program in the coming years.
“New McKinley Principal Liz Costella is fantastic and will provide excellent support for the program,” said Kissinger. Costella, finishing out the school year in her current position as Vice Principal of Instruction at Luther Burbank Middle is bilingual, speaking Spanish and English, and a Burbank native.
By the 2019-2020 school year, both Disney and McKinley can support a full cohort of Dual Immersion classes along with all of their neighborhood students for traditional elementary education, explained Kissinger. No teachers would be displaced and the district would have two principals and administrative staffs to support the program.
By 2021, the students emerging from both elementary schools’ Dual Immersion language programs will feed into Jordan Middle School, added Kissinger, intimating the district has plans to continue the program in some fashion at the middle school level.
All of the program students would spend their time at one elementary school instead of being switched to a new school site midway through the program, as space issues would eventually arise, were they to keep everything at the Disney site, he added.
“We were able to market the program successfully to the Spanish-speaking community,” said Kissinger, who expects to have full 50% native Spanish-speaking students participating in the programs for 2014-15 at both Disney and McKinley.
“I’m really pleased,” said school board member Larry Applebaum. “This shows a lot of reflection on the impacts the program was going to have and Dr. Kissinger has really put together something that’s going to be very positive for the school district.”
“It’s going to provide us with a basis for expanding Dual Immersion into other sites and potentially into other languages,” he added.
“I think this is going to be a true win for this community in a lot of ways,” Applebaum concluded. “While it’s not what I would love to see as the goal of being able to provide every Kindergartener with an opportunity of learning a foreign language, it’s a start.”
There has been so much interest in the program, both from Burbank residents and those outside of the school district, that a lottery was held to determine program placement. Those students who start out in Kindergarten in the program are automatically continued on to subsequent-year’s placement.
In its inaugural year at Disney Elementary, the Spanish Dual Immersion language program had 29 children enrolled in Kindergarten, “with virtually no attrition,” said Kissinger. All of those students are expected to continue on with the program in first grade.
The District is currently interviewing candidate teachers for the expanding program.