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Muscatine schools expand dual-language class program to kindergartners

The school district will offer one classroom at Franklin Elementary for parents who choose to enroll their child in the program.

MUSCATINE, Iowa — The Muscatine Community School District is changing the way it's teaching for some students in next year's incoming kindergarten class.

Starting next fall, education in a Muscatine classroom will sound a little different than the ones around it.

"It’s a different way of looking at instruction, instruction provided in two languages," said Corry Spies.

Spies is the principal at Franklin Elementary, and is committed to this new dual-language program for kindergarten students starting this fall.

"It’s something that’s really going to be a benefit to our families, our students at Franklin, but also because it is a district-wide program, it’s something that will benefit our entire district," Spies said.

Starting next fall, as many as 25 kindergartners will be learning both English and Spanish in class at Franklin.

At Monday night's information session, district leaders told parents that next year's class would be taught 80% in Spanish and 20% in English. That would then move to a 70:30 ratio in first grade, a 60:40 ratio in second grade, and a 50:50 ratio in third grade through sixth grade.

"The research is clear," Spies said. "The earlier the ages of students actually the better they’ll do with that."

It is a program that Christina Rosa is excited for her daughter to participate in next year, after already being enrolled in the district's dual-language preschool program this year.

"It’s a wonderful opportunity for the Spanish community," Rosa said.

Rosa went to school in Muscatine, but did not have the opportunity to learn Spanish at a young age. 

Rosa only mastered the language once her family moved to Puerto Rico. But now, Rosa's daughter will build confidence in the language Rosa uses at home.

"Sometimes when you learn it a little bit older, when you're older, sometimes you’re afraid to speak it," Rosa said. "But when it comes naturally to you at such a young age, it’s easier as you go."

Becky Wichers is the student services director for the district.

"We have one section of four-year-old preschool, and word on the street is things are going really well," Wichers said.

Wichers said Monday the district will be hiring seven bilingual teachers over the next several years to fill this need. She added the district plans to expand this program each year with one class, through the sixth-grade year.

"We are not piloting anything," Wichers said. "We said we were going to do it and we followed through."

The district is partnering with Adelante Educational Specialists to plan the implementation and ensure the kindergarten class is ready for next fall.

This program is changing the future of Muscatine students' education. It is also what will make the class of 2035 stand out.

To be considered for the program, families must attend a parent information meeting and sign in. 

After attending, parents must also then submit an interest form. That interest form will be available starting January 3, 2022 and will remain open through April 15, 2022.

Because the district is anticipating high demand for the program, the district will conduct a lottery for the program once submissions for interest close in April.

The district plans to announce more information sessions on its website and social media platforms in the new year. Parents can also contact their school's principal to learn more about the program and how to enroll their child.

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