FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Students involved in Forsyth County Schools’ dual language immersion program have been flourishing since the program launched this semester.
The classes, already in place in middle and high schools, were dropped from the elementary school curriculum in 2010. But, the Board of Education approved reintroducing the program at interested elementary schools this fall.
Associate Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Fonda Harrison said starting in kindergarten, students spend half their day learning academic content, including math, science and target language literacy by an immersion teacher. The other half of their day, including English/language arts, social studies and literacy, will be taught in English by an English-speaking teacher.
Three school principals indicated interest in implementing the program within the next few years, including Brandywine Elementary, Cumming Elementary and Kelly Mill Elementary.
Kelly Mill is the only school doing one-way immersion for students because its population is primarily English-native speakers.
“If we expand in the future, we will have schools that will be on the one-way and two-way side,” Harrison said. “The goals are proficiency in English and a new language, academic achievement and intercultural competence. It will take a few years because they’re learning that math content in Spanish.”
The program will not be a traditional world language class but an instructional model. Additionally, a team of two teachers will collaborate to teach all subject material.
Kelly Mill Principal Ron McAllister said the principals have seen many positive aspects to the program across all three schools. Parent support has been strong, McAllister said, and professional development has helped teachers.
“At Kelly Mill we’ve seen a broadened cultural awareness, not just in the target language of Spanish, but we had our morning news broadcast this week, which is run entirely by kids, in Greek,” he said. “Last week a student delivered it in Russian, and the one before was in Spanish. We have lots of languages represented and it’s been really cool to see their faces light up when they’re acknowledged and recognized.”
Cumming Elementary Principal Lee Ann Rice said the program has been a “fabulous adventure.” One of the biggest accomplishments, she said, is seeing student confidence levels rising.
“When we started, we have crying in kindergarten usually so I was worried we’d have even more when we’re speaking Spanish half the day,” Rice said. “But we did not. It’s been amazing to see how much the community and staff has embraced this. When the classes are walking down the hall, teachers are trying to learn more Spanish so they can speak to the students and the teachers.”
Brandywine Elementary Principal Todd Smith said his students are adjusting well to the transition.
“We have a current wait list and ended up adding several from that list,” Smith said. “We are planning to have an observation day for parents over the next few weeks.”