Foster to become district’s first dual language option school

Unanimous board decision will affect 2020-2021 school year

Posted 11/13/19

Next school year will mark the establishment of Jeffco’s first Dual Language Option School, with Arvada’s Foster Elementary transforming into Foster Dual Language PK-8 School. That decision was …

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Foster to become district’s first dual language option school

Unanimous board decision will affect 2020-2021 school year

Posted

Next school year will mark the establishment of Jeffco’s first Dual Language Option School, with Arvada’s Foster Elementary transforming into Foster Dual Language PK-8 School.

That decision was made at the Jefferson County Public School’s Board of Education meeting Nov. 7.

In December 2018, Foster parents brought their research and a proposal to the board, requesting the neighborhood school become a dual language option school instead. As an option, Foster would see all students instructed through the Dual Language Education Program, a Jeffco initiative through which bilingual teachers provide equal-parts Spanish and English instruction across all subjects, intended to assist both English speakers learning Spanish and Spanish speakers learning English.

The program currently runs in six elementary schools — Foster, Edgewater, Eiber, Molholm, Lumberg and Emory — with some secondary schools offering elective courses for students to continue developing their dual language skills.

Under the new proposal, Foster would expand to accept seventh and eighth graders, who would participate in the dual language program through graduation. Arvada High School administration has “made a commitment to try to keep the program going in high school,” said board president Ron Mitchell.

When the finalized proposal was presented for board approval in November, presenters noted that Foster staff has met with the entire community — parents, students and staff of surrounding schools, among other — with individuals overwhelmingly supporting the change.

A major selling point has been that the option school will continue to prioritize acceptance of students who live within the Foster historic boundary, said Foster Principal Leigh Hiester. The boundary extends just north of Ralston Creek, west to Wadsworth Bypass, south to Clear Creek and east to Sheridan Boulevard.

“It’s very important to us that our community is still first on the list for this opportunity,” she said.

Hiester and Renee Nicothodes, Jeffco’s chief of elementary schools, also noted the switch will accommodate a trend that is already occurring at Foster. Students do not have to participate in the dual language program at Foster, and can study in a traditional classroom setting instead. But currently, the school has just four traditional classrooms, with 321 students, or 79.8% of students, in the dual language program.

After the school is established as an option, beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, traditional classrooms at Foster will be phased out.

In 2020-2021, 54 students in grades 1 through 5 will study traditionally, while 348 K-8 students will be on a dual language track. In 2021-2022, 100% of students will follow the dual language track.

Meanwhile, students who do not wish to attend Foster will be assigned a new neighborhood school. Two neighborhood schools to the north, Swanson and Secrest, will expand their boundaries to the historical southern boundary of Foster, prioritizing acceptance of students who live in the area. Transportation will also be provided to Swanson and Secrest for these students.

The board voted unanimously to approve the change. Each member commending the community members and district staff who worked to get the proposal off the ground.

“I appreciate that you have been mindful of other communities, specifically Secrest and Swanson, and how this can be a positive for those communities,” board member Amanda Stevens said. “I really appreciate that you guys have taken a look at this from all angles, and thank you for doing something innovative. We want an option school that honors our neighborhood families.”

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