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District preparing survey on dual-language immersion
Program would be for elementary schools

Parents across Forsyth County should expect to receive an information sheet and survey regarding a proposed dual-language immersion program Forsyth County Schools is thinking of implementing in its elementary schools.

At a Board of Education work session Tuesday, World Language Content Specialist Michaela Claus-Nix presented the board with the information sheet, saying it, along with the survey, will likely be sent out the week of Feb. 20.

“It really is just a little bit of information for parents and for other stakeholders to learn about dual-language immersion: what is it, what the research says about dual-language immersion [and] what it is that parents can expect in the classroom,” Nix said. “I think we’re really trying to get a lot of information out up front in order to make it very clear it’s very different [from] what we had in the past.”

The county’s previous language program was phased out years ago, with the district’s last class to have been taught foreign languages in elementary school is graduating high school in 2015, according Jennifer Caracciolo, a spokeswoman for FCS.

The program would also differ from what is currently in place in middle and high schools throughout the county, which focuses on language instruction during only one class period per day.

Kindergarteners in the program would spend the entire school day speaking two languages – the base language and the target language.

Schools would choose the target language, which might be Spanish, for example, and students would be broken up into two groups.

One half of the students would, ideally, be native English speakers, and the other half native target language speakers.

That number could be adjusted to as low as a 70-to-30 ratio, Nix said.

Each group would spend half the day speaking the base language and the other half of the day speaking the target language.

Classes such as math, social studies, science, physical education, music and language literacy would be taught in the target language while English language arts, some math and other English content reinforcement classes would be taught in English.

Students would be tested on their speaking and listening skills in the target language at the end of third grade and on their speaking, listening, reading and writing skills at the end of fifth and eighth grades.

“We really have a unique situation in Forsyth County,” Nix said previously. “We have all the criteria that are already favorable for dual-language immersion. We do have a very fast-growing heritage speaker population, and we also already have staff members on hand who are very proficient in Spanish and other languages. We also have the community support; one pre-school already teaches students in Spanish immersion.”

The survey will be short and concise and will contain some general questions about demographics so FCS can find out where in the district a DLI program might flourish, Nix said.

It will also ask what language community members would prefer the program’s target language be.

“It will be very short and really not take much time to complete the survey,” Nix said.

It is currently scheduled to run from Feb. 22 to March 8, though schools will send out more information soon.