Parents and school officials asked the Natrona County School Board on Monday for a long-term commitment to a Chinese dual-language immersion program underway at a Casper elementary school, and to look further into the possibility of adding a Spanish dual-language program at a school across town.
The Chinese program is nearly three months into its pilot year at Paradise Valley Elementary. Program officials have not yet posted data on student achievement. But early feedback collected from parent and student surveys suggests those involved are pleased with the program.
Paradise Valley Principal Aaron Wilson presented results of student and parent surveys to the board Monday. Most parents reported their children appeared to enjoy learning Chinese and that they were making adequate progress in math, science and social studies. Every parent who responded to the survey said they will keep their child in the program next year.
“Pretty overwhelming results for the positive,” Wilson said of the parent survey results. “I think that speaks volumes of what is happening in that kindergarten classroom.”
Written feedback on the survey indicated many parents wanted more communication from the school about student progress. Wilson noted the survey went out before the school’s parent-teacher conferences and that information regularly going home in student backpacks must somehow not be making it to parents.
“We have an obligation to the parents at Paradise Valley, to say we’re ready to go,” Mark Mathern, NCSD’s associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said. If the school board makes a commitment to the program, Mathern said, it’s not just for one more year of Chinese, but for at least 12 years, which is how long it would take for the now-kindergartners to graduate from high school.
The board agreed to vote on whether to continue funding the Chinese program at its next meeting Nov. 11, and asked district staff to work with interested parties at Park Elementary to see what a program there could look like.
“We’re still very excited about the possibility of being considered for a Spanish program at Park for next fall,” Park Elementary Principal Dawn DeWald told the board Monday. “There’s a passion and an interest.”
DeWald worked as an elementary school principal for a dual-language campus before coming to Park, she said. Park Elementary was one of three schools that applied to create a dual-language program earlier this year, less than two months after a parent steering committee got the go-ahead from the district to gauge interest in the program.
Park Elementary parent Nohora Groce told board members Monday the school already offers traditional Spanish classes for elementary students, so a Spanish dual-language immersion program would not be a shock to the school’s environment.
“There is already a tradition with Spanish [at Park],” Groce said.
The third school to apply for funding for a dual-language program earlier this year was Fort Caspar Academy. Fort Caspar Principal Christopher Dresang told the Star-Tribune last week that while a dual-language program was not a priority for his school at this time, he was excited to hear about another school’s success.