Milford students to benefit from immersion program

MILFORD — Kindergartners enrolled at Morris Early Childhood Center in Lincoln next year may have the chance to learn in both Spanish and English, according to Director of Elementary Education Dr. Bridget Amory.

immersion2“We’re excited to be able to offer something to level the playing field and give more reason why Milford will be the right choice district,” she said.

Dr. Amory recently visited immersion programs in Utah before asking permission from the Milford School District Board of Education to file a grant request with the state of Delaware to help fund such a program locally.

“The call just came in,” she exclaimed on Thursday afternoon. “We got it.”

According to Dr. Amory, the grant will supply the district with $10,000 to help fund start-up costs for the program which will begin in the 2016/2017 school year.

About 50-54 students broken down into two groups will be enrolled in the program during its first year, both groups including native English speakers and students for whom English is not their first language.

The program will not only help English-speaking students learn a new language early on, but it will give some “English Language Learners” the opportunity to learn not only English, but their own native language, as well.

Of the approximately 300 students at Morris, there are about 97 English Language Learners enrolled, many of whom speak predominately Spanish.

“It’s truly an immersion program,” Dr. Amory said. “It becomes very natural to them. Some of the schools that are participating have found that their proficiency levels are higher across the board in students enrolled in these programs.”

Students enrolled in the program at Morris will learn English language arts and social sciences in English while Spanish literacy, science and math will be taught strictly in Spanish.

“The start-up funds will need to include materials offered in Spanish like curriculum, but also things we take for granted like name tags,” she added.

A teacher will need to be hired specifically for the Spanish portion of this program, she continued, however the district can use funding already available through teaching units earned based upon total district enrollment.

Dr. Amory said district officials are committed to hiring as local as possible, however the requirements of the job often leads other districts out of their own area to find a good fit.

“They have to be proficient in Spanish, of course. Many districts have gone with teachers from out of country for that proficiency level, but then you have to worry about 1-3 year visas. You don’t want to spend those resources and focus on those relationships when this person won’t be here long,” she said.

Milford School District will join ten other schools in Delaware which currently offer immersion programs

“World language capacity is crucial for Delaware to maintain and strengthen our state’s economy,” Delaware Governor Jack Markell said upon announcing the launch of the Governor’s World Language Expansion Initiative in 2012.

“Delaware graduates who enter the job market able to speak a language other than English will be at a significant advantage in today’s global marketplace. We want students in Delaware to have the challenge and the opportunity to learn another language before they reach high school.”

Although the program will begin small, Dr. Amory and other officials hope it grows each year.

“We’re just really excited to bring the opportunity to Milford. We’re talking about fluency in the fifth grade,” Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Kohel said.

Dr. Amory added, “We have our sights set on expanding the program in the future, but we want to do it well so we’re starting small. This will only be the beginning.”

Milford School District families interested in enrolling a kindergartner in the new immersion program for the 2016/2017 year can contact the district office at 302-422-1600.

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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