For the past two years the Morgan County School District has been investigating the possibility of creating a dual immersion program within the district. This educational program has a distinctive 50/50 curriculum in English and a second language that is integrated for academic content. It is aligned with the Utah State Core. It begins in first grade and adds an additional grade each year until the sixth grade. These second-language teachers generally come from outside the district and they usually replace a teacher within the school that is being transferred or replaced.
In a one-way model the student population consists primarily of students that speak English with limited to no proficiency in the immersion language (e.g. Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, or Spanish). The state will provide a maximum of no more than $10,000 per year to the program. It is to be used as start-up money for the grade level being introduced to the program. The objective is to have an immersion program that is functioning from grades one through six. Students must begin the program in first grade. Only about 55 students will be allowed into the program per grade. All others will remain in the traditional program.
The goal of dual immersion programs is to prepare Utah students academically, linguistically and socially for the challenges and needs of our global community. Students are to obtain academic achievement that is at or above their grade level. All students are to improve their cross-cultural understanding.
Schools must commit to a minimum of two classes in first grade and must use a two-teacher model. Only one language per school is allowed. Students must enroll full-time in only one school and cannot share enrollment between schools, immersion or non-immersion, nor home school. Currently there are about 57 such programs in schools across the state, mostly in larger populated school districts.
Several parents have approached the board regarding the implementation of such a program within the district. The district has conducted two informational meetings at the elementary schools and the board has learned about the program in regular board meetings.
The Morgan Board of Education and the administration have voiced support for the program, but have cautioned parents and others interested in implementing a plan that there are challenges that must be overcome prior to the board giving approval for implementation. At this time the board has firmly indicated that no dual immersion program will be implemented by the district until the present financial obstacles have been resolved. The Morgan Board of Education has trimmed approximately $500,000 from the 2012-13 school year budget and anticipates similar cuts for the 2013-14 school year.
There has been some confusion regarding a private day care center offering an immersion program for enrollees next year. This program is not sponsored nor endorsed by the district. The district is allowing a private group to conduct a one-week second language and cultural camp during the summer at Mountain Green Elementary. This program is not sponsored nor endorsed by the district.
The district and board recognizes the value of learning other languages and will not stand in the way of private business or universities providing enrichment programs within the district as long as it does not disrupt the approved educational program or interfere with the regular schedule of the schools.
The board has authorized the two elementary principals and their school community councils to move forward with some preliminary ground work concerning the immersion program. Under that directive the two schools are to work on the following:
1) Suggest the language to be taught when the program is approved.
2) Suggest the school where the program will be conducted.
3) Suggest a random method of selecting students for the program.
The board has not placed a time-line on the two councils, nor are they expecting to make final decisions on the matter any time soon.
Dual immersion could very well have a place in the Morgan School District at some point in the future. When, where, who and how are questions yet to be answered. The most pressing matter before the board at the present time is trimming and managing a budget impacted by local, state, national and world-wide economic downturns. The basic educational interests of all students must be protected before expanding into other enrichment instructional programs.