Highline expands dual language program in schools
More Highline Public Schools students are learning to be bilingual and bi-literate as the district expands its dual language programs to two more elementary schools and plans dual language offerings for middle and high school levels.
Next fall, Madrona Elementary in SeaTac will open a Spanish-English program for kindergartners. White Center Heights will offer both Spanish-English and Vietnamese-English programs.
In Dual Language immersion programs, a new cohort of kindergartners is enrolled each year-- about 24 who speak Spanish or Vietnamese as a first language, and 24 who speak English or another language at home.
The students have an English teacher and a Spanish or Vietnamese teacher; they spend about half the day with each teacher. Math is taught in English; science and social students, in Spanish or Vietnamese. In Kindergarten and 1st grades, reading is primarily taught in the students’ native language. After second grade, they are taught to read and write in both languages.
Students start the program as kindergartners. A new grade level is added each year as students move through elementary school.
Highline currently has Spanish-English programs at Hilltop Elementary in Buriern up through grade 4 and at Mount View Elementary in White center through grade 3.
Hilltop’s current fourth graders will enter middle school in fall 2015. District leaders are planning secondary level offerings that will allow those students to continue learning and building skills in two languages through middle school and high school.
In addition, students who were not enrolled in dual language classes in elementary school will be able to enter the program in 7th grade.
One possible plan is to develop a dual language strand in one middle school and one high school. Students from other geographic service areas would be able to transfer into the schools hosting dual language programs.
There is also some interest in exploring the possibility of an International School for grades 7 through 12 that serves only dual language students. That may come at some point in the future if the demand for dual language programs increases.
In the coming months, parents will have opportunities to share what they would like to see in secondary dual language programs.
“Expanding our dual language offerings to middle and high school will allow our students to become fully bilingual and bi-literate,” says Highline World Language and Cultural Arts Director Bernard Koontz. “Our students will be very well-positioned in tomorrow’s workplace. Being fluent in two languages will open up all kinds of opportunities for them.”