Want your child to be bilingual? Apply to DISD dual language programs by Jan. 31

Bilingual education programs continue to expand in Dallas ISD, with 50 elementary schools offering two-way dual language programs and another eight proposed for the 2017-18 school year.

The program is so popular and, at some schools, spots are so competitive that the district has tied in the application period with its choice and magnet school applications, giving parents of next year’s pre-K, kindergarten and first-grade students until Tuesday, Jan. 31 to apply.

This information recently was posted on Dallas ISD’s news site, The Hub, and brought to our attention by parents at Lakewood Elementary wanting to get out the word about their information session on Thursday, Jan. 19, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Since the DISD process is a complete change from the way Lakewood has conducted its dual language selection in the past, they’re trying to get the word out to all interested families.

The new application process is a change for other schools, too, which may have had different application periods or admission processes in prior years. In the new system, siblings of students already enrolled in their home school’s dual language program will be given priority, and oversubscription will result in a lottery for the seats.

Lakewood used a lottery system until five years ago, when teachers at Lakewood began garnering interest during kindergarten round-up in the spring, then assessing students to identify the best candidates for the program, followed by conversations with parents discussing the demands of the program before they decided to opt in.

“They came to realize it was really important that families understood the importance of commitment to the program,” says Megan Airitam, who has a third- and fifth-grader in Lakewood’s dual language program. “It affects not only your child but every child in the classroom.”

Airitam experienced this with her oldest daughter, who entered the program before the assessment process began. Her daughter’s fifth-grade class started in kindergarten with 20 students and now has six.

This year, Lakewood will align its process to DISD’s, but after admission, teachers will still assess the students entering the program and recommend to parents whether or not their children are good candidates. Unlike prior years, though, it will be parents’ choice whether to remain in the program.

“If you do get that spot and you’re not 100 percent committed, I would suggest giving your spot to someone else,” Airitam says of not just Lakewood’s but all DISD schools’ dual language programs.

She also encourages all interested parents to apply so that the district can better assess the program demand. At Lakewood, the 10 spots reserved for English speakers are likely to all be claimed by siblings of students in higher grades, even though dozens more parents are likely to seek spots. Last year 50-60 families were interested, Airitam says.

Several East Dallas elementary schools are now enrolling two-way dual language students for 2017-18, including: Edwin KiestStonewall JacksonRobert E. LeeWilliam LipscombMata MontessoriMartha T. Reilly and Alex Sanger. All are immersion programs except for Mata’s, which is enrichment; Lee’s two-way immersion program begins in pre-K.

Most schools held their information sessions prior to the winter break, but a DISD spokeswoman says the district “strongly encourages” families to request a one-on-one session with the campus they are seeking entry to.
Our neighborhood also dual language programs at the middle school level. Students can apply at J.L. Long or Alex Sanger and must pass a Spanish fluency test to be admitted.

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