OPINION: Preserving Dearborn Park School’s Dual Language Program

by Lisa Gascon, Monica Martinez and Kristy Shapcott

Dearborn Park International School (DPIS) is a vibrant and welcoming place. Our school resides in one of the most diverse zip codes in the country. Our children not only belong to a close-knit circle of families and friends, they are also part of a broader community, rich in its diversity of ethnicities, backgrounds, languages and cultures. The dual language immersion program is the thread weaving together the tapestry of the DPIS community.

The benefits of learning another language in childhood are well known. In addition to learning a new language, our children are also partaking in many cultural aspects as well. They learn new songs and dances. They try new foods. They discover various cultural traditions and celebrations. All of this combined is giving our children the skills to live and work in diverse communities where they will value and respect multiculturalism.

Our children are thriving under the dual language immersion program at DPIS. After a 2014 move from Central America to Seattle, one family was worried for their children’s school experience. Already native Spanish speakers, this family’s transition to an American school was eased by having a Spanish speaking teacher who both spoke the family’s home language and who also fostered the children’s pride in their native language and culture.

DPIS is facing low projected enrollment for the 2019-20 school year, resulting in staffing cuts and jeopardizing the beloved immersion program our community has worked so hard to cultivate. Our community’s desire to remain a neighborhood school is fierce, yet our diminutive school attendance boundaries are doing us no favors when it comes to increasing enrollment. We propose that Seattle Public Schools (SPS) create a geozone outside of but nearby the boundaries of DPIS to include 15 to 30 percent heritage speakers. This would allow more native speakers the opportunity to choose DPIS and receive 50 percent of their child’s daily school instruction in their native language.

Though it has encountered many bumps along the way, DPIS’ dual language immersion program remains a primary attraction of the schools and also accounts for the school’s lengthy wait list year-after-year. Other than the first year of inception in 2014, SPS has denied placement to most of these wait-listed families. The School district needs to allow more South End families into the dual language immersion program at DPIS. The demand is there, as is the physical space for these students. Please join us in contacting the school board (schoolboard@seattleschools.org) and telling them that our school is worth the investment. Thank you. ¡Gracias! !Xiè xiè!

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Featured Image: Courtesy Photo

One thought on “OPINION: Preserving Dearborn Park School’s Dual Language Program”

  1. Why 15-30%? That seems incredibly low. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/12/the-middle-class-takeover-of-bilingual-schools/549278/
    “But—and here’s the rub—if a two-way dual-immersion program helps generate middle-class interest in multilingualism, that dynamic could also undermine the program’s design and effectiveness. What happens when rising demand from privileged families starts pushing English learners out of these programs? Advocates for educational equity are already seeing this specific problem play out in their communities.”