USD 501 Bilingual Schools Program Expands

Since 2009, children who attend Scott Dual Language Magnet learn not only to speak English and Spanish, but also to read, solve math problems, explore science and become global citizens in both languages.

The program started with 32 students from Scott’s preschool program, according to principal Sarah Lucero, and has grown to 72 students this year.

“Every year we’ve been able to stay at full capacity,” said Lucero, who became assistant manager at Scott in 2012 and then manager in 2013. “We usually have a waiting list on bid day.”

This year, however, Lucero said there are more preschool slots open than in previous years. Applications for preschoolers will be accepted this Thursday at the school at 401 SE Market. No child in the Topeka 501 Unified School District is qualified to enroll in the bilingual program, she said.

All students in kindergarten through third grade are taught all their subjects in English and Spanish, and two fourth and fifth grade classes are taught in both languages. She said the program, with a bilingual classroom in each year at Whitson Elementary, showed her “what is possible in education.”

“It was amazing to see these kids become bilingual whose first language is English, and they come to school here and learn Spanish just by being in the school environment,” she said. “It’s really good to see what’s possible in a school system and to help these kids become bilingual just because of what we’re doing here. I learned that when we set high expectations, kids will achieve them.

Lucero said the research shows how a child’s brain develops when learning another language at a young age, which helps children with other academic fields and career opportunities later in life.

“The fact that they will be competitive is just amazing,” Lucero said. “It doesn’t matter what field they choose, if they choose science, having that basic Latin language in Spanish will help them move into biology and have those Latin-based words. It’s also about to be a translator in this field.

“I’m so excited for what these kids can bring to Topeka culture,” Lucero continued. “With all these companies that we are trying to bring to Topeka, they will definitely be great citizens for Topeka.”

Lucero said learning another language at an early age has cognitive and problem-solving benefits and can reduce the risk of brain-related diseases later in life. Additionally, higher levels of student attendance, test scores, and parental involvement have been positive benefits of the dual-language Scott program, she said.

“They (Scott’s staff) have a really big job to do, but they’re doing it really well,” said Sarah Fizell, parent of Scott kindergarten, Astra, and preschooler. incoming, Geneva. “They are very clear about their mission.”

Fizell said that in addition to her daughter, Astra, learning all of her academic subjects in English and Spanish, “she’s learning how different people live their lives.”

“You learn that best when these people are your friends,” she said.

Melanie Stuart Campbell has a son, Stuart, a fourth grader, and a daughter, Paloma, a sophomore at Scott. She said that although her children have benefited from teachers at Scott from Spain and several South American countries – Nicaragua, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and El Salvador to name a few – and d Having classmates who speak mostly Spanish, she and other parents at school were able to get to know each other on a deeper cultural level.

“It reduces xenophobia because we are able to communicate with other people from different cultures,” she said. “It allows for healthy and productive relationships on a global scale.”

Vianey Perez, whose children Vianey Villasana, a sophomore, and Luis Villasana, a preschooler at Scott, said her children felt “very proud” to say they were students there. She said her son is learning to read in English and Spanish at a much earlier age and at a faster rate than she had anticipated.

“Not only are they learning, but they’re learning really fast,” Perez said through Elisa Banowsky, a kindergarten teacher from Scott, who translated for her.

Perez said her daughter is working hard to learn, especially language arts, which is presented in both languages.

“She’s learning that she’s capable of learning anything she’s taught,” she said. “Sometimes it just takes more effort.”

Perez said she hopes her children will continue to attend Topeka’s USD 501 bilingual program. Students who were in the bilingual program at Scott beginning in 2009 are now in the bilingual program at Landon Middle School which began at the of the 2015-16 school year and has approximately 60 students.

Anita Curry, director of English language learning services at USD 501 since 2009, said the district is working on plans to expand the bilingual program to one of three traditional high schools – Highland Park, Topeka High or Topeka West. .

“That decision hasn’t been made yet,” she said, adding that the goal is to have a bilingual program in high school starting in August 2018. “We haven’t ironed out the details yet. , but we have a commitment to a high school curriculum.

Curry said $501 will likely have the first bilingual high school program in Kansas when it becomes a reality. She said it would be a “feather in the ceiling” of $501 to be first, but having more high schools online with similar dual-language programs would be beneficial.

“I say the more the merrier,” Curry said, “to collaborate on not reinventing the wheel.”

Applications for Scott’s Bilingual Preschool Program are available online or by calling (785) 235-7480.

Contact the journalist Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143 or follow her on Twitter @AngelaDeines.