Board votes 4-3 to put dual-language program at Leal, Prairie

Board votes 4-3 to put dual-language program at Leal, Prairie

URBANA – The Urbana school board voted 4-3 Monday to start its dual-language program at Leal School and Prairie Elementary, and charged an administrative committee to provide more details about the new program by the Feb. 21 board meeting.

Dual-language classes teach both native English- and Spanish-speaking students in both languages. The district is creating dual-language kindergarten and first-grade classrooms because of a high number of Spanish-speaking students enrolled and expected for next year.

Board Vice President Benita Rollins-Gay and members Paul Poulosky, Elaine Gehrmann and Peggy Patten voted for Prairie as a second location for the program. The district's bilingual program is already located at Leal.

Board President John Dimit, Secretary Ruth Ann Fisher and member Brenda Carter voted against locating the program there.

Dimit and Carter said they'd like to see the second dual-language program at Thomas Paine Elementary. Dimit expressed concern that 90 percent of Prairie students walk there, while nearly half of students who currently attend Thomas Paine ride the bus. He said he's concerned about displacing students who could walk to Prairie as dual-language grows to become a kindergarten through fifth-grade program.

Fisher told the board she thinks the district could use another year of planning before implementing dual-language, and Carter said she worries that construction of the new early childhood center and renovations to Prairie will disrupt students already there. She was in favor of locating it at Thomas Paine.

Poulosky led the argument in favor of establishing a second dual-language program at Prairie because it has room available now and will gain three more classrooms in 2013 after its renovation.

Gehrmann, who is a part of the committee that is redrawing elementary attendance boundaries, said she believes some of the students who walk to Prairie could be redistricted to walk to Thomas Paine.

Next, a committee of teachers, administrators, parents and community members will look at whether the dual-language program can go full-steam ahead at both schools, with the possibility of creating two kindergartens and two first grades at each school.

The committee will also recommend at the Feb. 21 board meeting the percentage of time to be taught in each language.

The district is expecting more than 30 Spanish-speaking students for kindergarten next year, and Dimit said he'd like to see eight each in a classroom, with 12 English-speaking students. After first grade, English-speaking students who aren't bilingual won't be able to join the program because their Spanish proficiency will lag behind.

Dimit said he envisions the number of Spanish-speakers in those classrooms growing, or the classes condensing as dual-language students advance toward fifth grade.

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Are you kidding wrote on January 31, 2012 at 12:01 am

HUGE, HUGE, HUGE mistake placing the DL program at Prairie. It's getting it's new gym and classrooms now because of trying to find a place the put Washington Early Childhood. That's its perk.

Thomas Paine is drowning in bad, bad, bad publicity still and it is in need of a complete overhaul and this would have been the perfect start. Time to shake things up instead of same-o-some-o. This school needed a breath of fresh air!!!! Alas, another vote of no confidence.

Bad move!!!

Hmmm.......elections are 2013. Vote for Carter. Vote for Dimit. Vote for Fisher.

areader wrote on January 31, 2012 at 6:01 am

ENGLISH should be the ONLY language taught in this country!  Why should I get frustrated when checking for a calorie count or other information on a box of cereal or looking for instructions how to put together a book shelf and I CAN'T find the instructions in the HOME language of this country which is ENGLISH!  MAKE EVERYONE LEARN ENGLISH IF THEY WANT TO LIVE HERE!  END OF SENTENCE!

repeteil wrote on January 31, 2012 at 6:01 am

I agree 100%. What is wrong with this country? We are going to the dogs.

rch wrote on January 31, 2012 at 8:01 am

Do you even know what this program is? Based on your comment, clearly not. You just hear the word "Spanish" and flip out. Your point of view shows you have lacked a lot of opportunity in life to grow and live... that doesn't mean you should wish other people to stay locked in your sad, scared world. Dual language programs teach both English and Spanish to native speakers of each language. In other communitiies where I have lived, English speaking parents compete for the opportunity for their children to be placed in a program like this. Yes! Any parent I know would love for their child to learn two languages. That is a gift of an opportunity that will open many doors for them. Know what you're talking about before you comment! This program rocks and all schools with a Spanish-speaking population would be well-served to switch to this model!!!

areader wrote on January 31, 2012 at 11:01 am

OK--MY turn, and I didn't FLIP OUT after reading this article, I stated my opinion.

I have a Masters degree and have traveled throughout the world therefore, I have, in fact, lived and grown from my educational experience and interaction with people/cultures in ALL parts of the world!  I do NOT consider my world sad and scary!  I was born in this country, paid my way through school, sacrificed much time, effort and money to make my life better!  I wanted (and rec'd) a decent education for my children to learn the BASICS (foreign language was not important to me or them--there are other courses in any school that, in my opinion, are more valuable)!  Many person who come to the US thinking this is place there they can walk in, get jobs (because of quotas) and  receive perks because they're from other countries should consider this--GO BACK TO YOUR OWN COUNTRY AND DEVELOP PROGRAMS FOR YOUR OWN NATION!  Stop depending on the US to give you what you want!  And finally, what about all those other countries?  Let's put instructions for building a bookcase on a box in French, Irish Celtic, German, Italian, etc.

mmemartinez wrote on January 31, 2012 at 8:01 am

There is no "official" language of the U.S. so you might as well get over the fact that other people speak languages besides English. It's in the best interest of companies to include all languages to please their customers. Additionally many of the things you are assembling are not just sent to American consumers, so logically there should be multiple languages on any instructions.

The rest of your diatribe is so xenophobic and backward I refuse to even bother with trying to give you an explanation of why studying other languages and cultures is important. English is not the most widely spoken language in our world and to ignore this fact is ignorant and foolish.

yates wrote on January 31, 2012 at 8:01 am

You can spin it anyway you want but the overwhelming majority of citizens don't like catering to people that came here by sneaking across our borders. You want to teach these people in two languages then let private parties pay for it, not taxpayers.

mmemartinez wrote on January 31, 2012 at 11:01 am

1) The dual-language program would have both native English and native Spanish speakers.

2) Just because someone speaks Spanish it does not mean they are here illegally.

3) The native Spanish speakers will also be learning English which pretty much negates everyone's anger over not teaching English.

4) "Illegal" immigrants pay taxes too. They pay property taxes through their rent and they pay sales tax whenever they purchase something. Income tax in Illinois contributes very little, if anything, to education costs.

5) As I've mentioned in a previous post on the subject, being bilingual can improve overall academic achievement and testing scores (wealth of articles here: It is to everyone's benefit (student, tax-payer, etc.) to have well-educated children; the children of so-called "illegal" immigrants will very likely make the U.S. their home as adults, so where is the negative in making sure they are well-educated, contributing members of our society?