The South Kingstown School District’s Spanish dual-language immersion program has seen positive enrollment numbers, according to Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow. Approximately one-third of kindergarten students have elected to participate.
The numbers are not finalized – enrollment will continue until the beginning of the school year – but as of Aug. 7, 68 of 202 enrolled kindergarten students elected to take the program. Half will attend Peace Dale Elementary School; the other half will attend West Kingston Elementary School.
As part of the Spanish immersion program, which is a new initiative, students will be taught in English for half the day and in Spanish for the other half of the day. The program begins when a student enrolls in kindergarten and continues through Grade 5. A student could not join in the later years because of a learning gap, but Stringfellow said it may be possible to join in first grade and complete catch-up classes. The students would continue to take Spanish and cultural and language courses offered at the middle and high schools.
“We’re pleased with our enrollment,” Stringfellow said. “We feel that it’s quite a big number, considering the fact that it is brand new.”
Stringfellow has said in the past the program may attract students to South Kingstown schools.
“We’ve heard from parents saying they were planning on sending their students to a private or charter school,” she said. “We have received feedback saying, ‘I’m so glad you have this program, this made my decision to send my child to public school easier.’”
Some community members have expressed concern the Spanish program could create “inequity” among students, because families of those who live outside the Peace Dale and West Kingston elementary school boundaries, in Matunuck or Wakefield, for example, must provide their own transportation. Stringfellow said the families of 19 of the 68 enrolled students must provide transportation, and most have expressed no concerns about it.
Participating students were going to be selected via a lottery system, but Stringfellow said there was no need for a lottery this year. That may change in subsequent years as demand changes, she added.
The school district has hired a Dual Language Coordinator to oversee the program, as well as teachers for the two Spanish classes, Stringfellow said. The Spanish teachers are working with the English-speaking teachers and have developed curriculum for the two classes. A parent orientation was held last week and 43 of the 68 enrolled families attended.
The South Kingstown School Committee is scheduled to discuss the program during its meeting Tuesday in the South Kingstown High School library, 215 Columbia St., Wakefield. The meeting begins at 7 p.m.