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KCKPS launches new dual language program, opening doors for academic fluency in Spanish, English

KCKPS launches dual language program paving the way for students to become biliterate and bilingual
Posted at 5:21 AM, Aug 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-23 15:12:15-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — This school year, the Kansas City, Kansas, School District is breaking the mold by introducing a new program aimed at bringing biliteracy to the classroom.

It's all part of the district's Dual Language Program, where select students and schools will be learning content in both English and Spanish.

"About 50% of our student population identifies on their enrollment that they're Spanish speakers, so language choice was very easy," explained Jacqueline Rodriguez, director of multilingual education and services at KCKPS. "We have over 63 languages represented in the district."

According to Rodriguez, faculty has been working towards this program since 2019 and it's only being offered to kindergarten students attending Frances Willard Elementary, New Stanley Elementary and Silver City Elementary. Families had to apply ahead of the 2023-24 school year with the district prioritizing students who reside in the attendance boundaries of the three select schools.

"It's giving our English-speaking parents opportunities to connect with the language and the culture and then also develop in our Spanish-speaking parents an opportunity to connect and to really look at family engagement," Rodriguez said.

At Silver City, biliteracy and celebration of diversity can be seen through the school's hallways, where international flags are proudly hung. As one of the program's participating schools, teachers like Myrella Flores say it's opening the doors for schools for students to get a better understanding of their surrounding community.

"They are now able to come and use language that they hear outside of school, and it's not just Spanish, I have Swahili speakers and I have speakers of other languages that I can't even name, so some of our kids are literally linguistically gifted because they are not just going to be bilingual, they're going to be trilingual," Flores said.

The program is based on a 50/50 model. According to the district, students will spend half of their day learning in Spanish and the other half learning in English, all while meeting academic standards.

"Everyone is speaking Spanish and its becoming such a rapidly growing language," parent Gustavo Alcala said. "I think it's great for him [his student] to start learning at this young age."

Some parents, like Diamond Sauls, are also connecting with their students through the new material. She says her bond with her son, Sterling, is blossoming through this program while doing homework or looking for forms of entertainment.

"It does bring a lot of excitement, I told him that he was going to learn Spanish and he was a little scared. We watched a couple of his videos and he was excited the first day of school," Sauls said.

Plans are in the works to expand this program into middle and high school, but right now, the district is focusing on kicking off this program in the elementary school level among K-fifth graders.