School board to consider dual-language
CARBONDALE, Colo. – Students at Crystal River Elementary School (CRES) in Carbondale already get 45 minutes of Spanish language instruction every day.Parent Colin Laird, who has a third-grader and kindergarten student at the school, said his kids already speak more Spanish than he does. But he wants to give them an opportunity to be truly bilingual.”That’s why I’m doing this,” said Laird about his involvement with the committee looking into a dual-language learning program at CRES. Laird and other parents, teachers and staff from CRES are planning to present a proposal to the Roaring Fork School District Board Wednesday, Jan. 10, to introduce a dual-language program at CRES starting next fall.”We’ve wanted this to happen sooner than later; our daughter already kind of missed the window on this,” said Laird of he and his wife Alice’s third-grader. “Because we have so many English Language Learners (ELL), a lot of stats show you can use their native language to help them achieve better.”They end up keeping their native language while learning another, and Anglos end up speaking another language,” he said.CRES already has 18 kindergarten students who are in a pilot Spanish literacy program, as well as ELL, to see how they do, said Laird, who has been working with the committee since last spring.”That’s a precursor to dual language,” he said.Dual-language, or bilingual education, means students learn the basics of reading and writing in their native language as well as teaching subjects in their non-native language. Basalt Elementary School has had a dual-language program for about 10 years.”We haven’t had to start from scratch. There are lots of programs in the state and a lot of stats are available,” said Laird, who is on the school accountability committee and is the executive director of Healthy Mountain Communities.His wife, Carbondale Trustee Alice Laird, has been an outspoken proponent of bringing more balance in the local public schools. The most recent statistics show that CRES is about 80 percent Hispanic students, most of whom are ELL.”(Dual-language) seems valuable in Basalt, maybe it will work here. Given our demographics, it seems like a perfect fit,” Colin Laird said.Laird said Superintendent Judy Haptonstall and CRES principal Karen Olson have been part of the discussions from the beginning, as have some school board members. He said he thinks the time and place is right for this type of program.CRES students will be returning to school on Monday, Jan. 8, in a newly expanded school on Snowmass Drive. Also on Jan. 10, the board will consider a policy addition that will allow the district to close schools in one community due to unsafe conditions rather than closing schools across the entire district due to weather in one area.
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