Opening Barbara McClintock STEM Elementary School next year gives the Pasco School District a unique opportunity to expand its popular two-way dual immersion program.
But some Pasco school board members are concerned about whether the new school will have enough space for the program and growth.
English-speaking students are paired with Spanish-speaking students through elementary and middle school in the dual immersion program, starting out in kindergarten.
Students act as models in their native language while learning from their peers, said Liz Flynn, Pasco’s assistant superintendent of instructional services.
The goal is to help children become bilingual and biliterate as well as learn the culture of another peer group. It serves as bilingual instruction for Spanish-speaking students and is an enrichment for English-speaking students, Flynn said.
The district’s current dual language program opened with Maya Angelou Elementary School. Starting it with a new school allowed the entire staff to get on board, including the art, music, physical education and library specialists, she said.
Students in the program also attend McLoughlin Middle School and both high schools. There are two classes part of the program per grade.
About 500 of Pasco’s students are in the two-way dual language program. The first group of participating students are high school sophomores this year.
This year, there are 66 English-speaking students on the waiting list, and there were 45 on last year’s waiting list, Flynn said.
“Every year we have a long list of student hopefuls who do not make it in,” she said.
Adding the program to McClintock would allow 24 more native English-speaking students to join the program, she said.
The bilingual language program at Rosalind Franklin STEM Elementary School would transition to McClintock, starting with kindergartners next year, Flynn said.
School board member Amy Phillips said she had serious concerns about adding the dual language program to McClintock because of how fast that area has grown.
She suggested considering adding the program to James McGee Elementary, which is seeing a more stable student population.
“I love dual language,” Phillips said. “I want to grow it. I want to see it happen in more schools.”
School board member Steve Christensen said he thinks the perception of displacing neighborhood kids would be more than the actuality, since many of the students in the dual language program are coming from that neighborhood.
No matter what, every inch of McClintock will be used, said Jaime Morales, McClintock planning principal. The new school has 32 classrooms and would have the space for the program.
There is room to add eight portables. The portables would be close to the building and would not be where students will be playing, Morales said. It isn’t ideal to have portables, but it’s the reality at other elementary schools.
“The reality is that we are going to need more schools,” said Ryan Brault, school board president.
If voters approve a bond for new schools in the future, that would allow the dual language program to stay at McClintock, Christensen said.