LYNN — With an aim toward providing all kinds of kids an opportunity to become bilingual, the Lynn Public Schools is rolling out a two-way Spanish immersion program at the kindergarten level in the fall of 2020.
The Compañeros TWI (Two-Way Immersion) Program will be optional for kindergarteners at Harrington Elementary School for the 2020-21 school year, with plans to implement the dual language program at subsequent grade levels each year.
The district plans to submit its proposal for the program to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) next fall. Instruction for the classes would split between English and Spanish.
“It’s the exact same curriculum, but it’s taught in two languages, for all students,” said Rania Caldwell, director of the Lynn Public Schools English Learner Education Department. “For students who speak another language, they’re getting the message that the language that they speak is an asset.”
There are four kindergarten classrooms at Harrington and two will be set aside for families seeking to have their students participate in the dual language program, according to Caldwell.
Caldwell said the district’s demographics are ideal for a two-way Spanish immersion program, citing statistics that showed there are 55.67 percent English speakers and 44.33 percent English Language Learners at the kindergarten level.
In Lynn Public Schools, the percentage of kindergarten students who speak either English or Spanish as a home language is nearly identical, with Spanish slightly outpacing the former at 45.81 percent to 45.46 percent.
She said Harrington was chosen for the program based on its demographics, which show an even narrower gap for English speakers and ELL students. At Harrington, 51.55 percent and 48.45 percent of its students are non-ELL and ELL respectively.
The TWI is part of the district’s overhaul of its approach to meeting the needs of ELLs, which is meant to comply with the Language Opportunity for Our Kids (LOOK) Act. Passed in November 2017, the law provides more options for parents of ELL students, as well as increased accountability for schools and districts in meeting the needs of those students.
Earlier this year, Lynn Public Schools and Salem Public Schools were awarded a $300,000 grant from DESE for the dual language program, which will be split between the two districts.
An ideal goal is for the program to be K-12, but the focus right now is having it be K-5, starting with Harrington, before looking to expand to other schools, according to School Committee member Michael Satterwhite.
“We have to start somewhere,” Satterwhite said. “Instruction is provided in both English and Spanish and it’s truly a dual education, which means we need educators who are also qualified to provide these instructions. We will eventually be competing for these educators in the near future considering how many communities are rolling out TWI.”