OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The Blue Valley School District is paving the way for children whose second language is English.
The district’s Next Steps program forms part of Blue Valley's Parents as Teachers program and gives families who speak multiple languages in their home the opportunity to immerse themselves in a classroom and prepare their children for kindergarten.
Recent grants and funds raised by the Blue Valley Early Childhood PTA allowed the district to create a classroom inside the Hilltop Learning Center, specific to Next Steps.
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"This program really helps my child to be comfortable," said Samarth Javery, a parent at Blue Valley.
Javery and his wife enrolled their son, Swaraj in the Next Steps program to get him comfortable with a classroom setting. The family is from Mumbai and Javery says the program has helped his son break out of his shell and increase his socialization skills.
"So he was bit shy and he had some fear in his heart, you know, and this program really helped him to throw away that fear," Javery said.
Filled with mock coffee stations, dollhouses and a cash register, the Next Steps classroom is set up so children can play with each other as their parents model play and interact with other participating families.
"This classroom is building language, they are learning how to take turns — just communication between not only our peers but also with our caregiver or parent that is also involved in the classroom," said Amy Scavuzzo, teacher at Next Steps.
According to the district website, across the Blue Valley School District more than 100 languages are spoken by students, and administrative staff says this program is a building block the district relies on while promoting community connections.
"We have just seen families come in and not know families yet, or their children haven't had classroom experiences like this and we've just really seen them bond with one another, become more familiar with the school and the district as well as what to expect in a classroom," said Michelle Kelly, program C=coordinator with Blue Valley Parents as Teachers.
Participants of Next Step meet once a week, but the program goes an extra step by pairing families with a parent educator for routine weekly home visits. Each educator designs actives specific to their families, but they’re also learning along the way.
"It's so special to go in ... we get to see a little window into their celebrations and their traditions and we hear their home language sometimes at home," said Becky Carney, parent educator with Blue Valley's Parent's as Teachers.
There's still space available for families who are interested in the program. To learn more visit the district's website.