DMUSD to offer Spanish in upcoming school year

The DMUSD board at a previous board meeting.
(Karen Billing)

Spanish language instruction will return to the Del Mar Union School District as it plans to begin a pilot program in the 2019-20 school year. In 2020, the district looks to roll out a one-way immersion program where students’ instruction in nearly every subject would be in Spanish.

The district began pursuing a foreign language program last year after hearing feedback that parents wanted children to experience foreign language during the school day.

“This is near and dear to my heart and I’m really excited to see this getting underway,” said DMUSD President Erica Halpern.

DMUSD Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Shelley Petersen said the language program will align with the district’s goals to prepare all students to be college ready, globally competitive and engaged citizen leaders.

The program would also align with the California Department of Education’s Global California 2030 which states a goal that by 2030, all K–12 students participate in programs leading to proficiency in two or more languages. By 2040, the goal is for three out of four students to be proficient in two or more languages, earning them a State Seal of Biliteracy.

Spanish used to be a part of DMUSD’s Extended Studies Curriculum (ESC) but the board removed it in 2009. ESC was re-branded to STEAM + in 2015, including the specialty programs in science, technology, art, music and physical education that are partially funded by donations to the Del Mar Schools Education Foundation. Currently, DMUSD has fee-based Spanish and Mandarin programs that are offered after school.

Petersen said staff turned to parent outreach as they decided which direction they would go with the new language program. A March parent survey found that 93 percent were interested in the district adding foreign language study and that 1,389 respondents preferred Spanish and 544 respondents were interested in Mandarin instruction.

In a second survey seeking input regarding STEAM+ programs, respondents indicated a desire for the inclusion of foreign language instruction as well as continuing with the current STEAM+ content areas.

Petersen said the district is looking at offering two Spanish sessions a week for every sixth-grade student in addition to STEAM +, provided by a credentialed teacher. The district will provide a FLES type of language program, which includes an integration of language and culture study, standards-aligned curriculum and “varied and appropriate” assessment.

The district plans to form a second language advisory committee to provide input on a one-way immersion program that would begin in fall 2020. In a one-way immersion program, the target language is used for all instruction with the exception of English language arts. Petersen said a one-way immersion program would likely start at one school and the amount of immersion would be dependent on the interest, starting with one kindergarten cohort and rolling up.

Trustee Stephen Cochrane questioned why the district would start with less if there was an interest in one-way immersion program.

“It takes a great deal of preparation to do it really well,” Petersen said of the need to start with a FLES program and take a year to look at the expansion of offerings. “We want to do our research, do our homework and be very well prepared to start an outstanding program in fall 2020.”

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