Elementary School Spanish Program In Jeopardy

NEWARK – Board of Education officials last week got a first hand look at a highly successful program teaching young students Spanish as a second language in a handful of Worcester elementary schools.

A multi-dimensional program installed in both Snow Hill and Pocomoke Elementary Schools is teaching young students Spanish as a second language, along with associated cultural, historical, geographical and even scientific lessons associated with the content.

The initiative, part of the ELL Language Infusion Push into the Classroom, is in its second year as a fully grant-funded program, but is at risk of being discontinued when the current grants expire. Through the program, pre-K to 5th grade students are learning Spanish as a second language, while Spanish-speaking students are learning English at the same time, explained Coordinator of Instruction Diane Stulz.

“It’s a great program,” she said. “It is taught in 30-minute lessons and it’s really been well received. School administrators are typically pretty guarded with their instructional time, but they are seeing the value in this program.”

According to research, the earlier students begin learning a second language, the greater the impact on their brain development. Through the program, students are provided with an infusion of language development that helps to increase both fluency and competency in not only their second language, but also their native language.

“The program integrates learning a second language with lessons in culture, history, geography and even science in some cases,” said Stulz. “Studies show learning a second language stimulates listening skills and creative thinking. For example, we incorporated a lesson about the Monarch butterflies that migrate to Mexico each year and integrated lessons about why they migrate, where they go and when they come back, for example.”

Despite the success of the program in Worcester’s elementary schools, the grants for the program will likely expire without being renewed.

“We’re in the last year of the grant and I know there isn’t much funding for teaching Spanish,” said Stultz. “We’re actively looking for funding opportunities to keep the program going.”

Superintendent Dr. Jon Andes recognized the benefits of the program.

“The best time to learn a foreign language is when you’re five or six years old, not when you’re 15 or 16,” he said. “We’d like to sustain it and keep it going, but you know the challenges we face.”