5 reasons to maintain hope in Dallas ISD: Rosemont Elementary’s Spanish immersion from kindergarten through eighth-grade

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A Rosemont student sports a T-shirt with the school’s catchphrase: Photo from Rosemont Dads’ Club Facebook page
 In April 2014, Dallas ISD trustees approved spending $130 million to fix what they deemed the worst of the district’s facility problems, as well as to overhaul the facilities of new choice schools. Here’s how it impacts schools in our neighborhood:

PH_graphConstruction on all of these projects is expected to begin next summer and finish in time for the 2017-18 school year.
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Source: Dallas ISD, as of July 10, 2015

Dual language classrooms, where students learn in half English and half Spanish, launched at Rosemont in 2006, the first year the program was adopted in Dallas ISD. It soon became a source of pride and a large draw for young families in the north Oak Cliff neighborhoods whose children attend the school.

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As the program’s initial kindergarteners grew older and moved closer to middle school, however, parents worried about their children losing the Spanish they had spent years learning. So they petitioned Dallas ISD to add a dual language middle school at Rosemont, and received a green light from the board of trustees.

Rosemont’s first class of dual language sixth-graders launched two years ago, meaning they’ll be eighth-graders this fall. Parents were thrilled, not only that their children would continue learning in Spanish but also that they would be part of a tight-knit middle school.

“Middle school in DISD, to many of us, was this big scary thing,” says Scott Dugger, whose daughter entered into Rosemont’s dual language program during its infancy. “We were very happy having our kids at our local elementary school with a group of cohorts and teachers we were really in love with.”

As parents looked for information to support their cause, they “ran into research that K-8 is beginning to be a very successful model in schools around the country,” Dugger says.

Rosemont parents are not alone in their desire to prolong the elementary atmosphere. Sanger Elementary in East Dallas launched a middle school dual language program this fall, and Harry Stone and George Bannerman Dealey Montessori schools both continue through sixth-grade and have seventh- and eighth-grade academies. Parents at Preston Hollow Elementary also are petitioning to extend their International Baccalaureate curriculum into the middle school years.

A 2014 change in board policy may open the door for more Dallas ISD schools to make this conversion. When trustees were asked to approve grade configuration changes for East Dallas’ Mount Auburn and Eduardo Mata elementary schools, making them two distinct schools rather than one feeding into the other, trustees opted instead to pass an amendment that gave administrators authority to make such decisions.

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Facility restraints are still a factor, however, and additions require board and, often, voter approval. A couple of kindergarten through eighth-grade schools are part of the tentative bond package trustees are considering, including a new upper elementary campus at Rosemont to relieve overcrowding for third- through eighth-grade students.

Currently, Rosemont’s middle school is limited to dual language students and capped at 60 students per grade. More space may allow the program to expand to traditional students, and Dugger says more students would improve extra-curricular offerings.

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Though Dugger was among the parents who pushed for the Rosemont middle school, his daughter moved to Bishop Dunne last year for sixth-grade.

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“We decided at the end of fifth-grade that the dual language model was fantastic, but we wanted a little more,” he says. “We wanted the athletics, the academic clubs, and that’s what kind-of forced our hand.”

The Rosemont Dads’ Club, in which Dugger still participates, is hoping to sponsor UIL teams “for our kids to compete against other middle schools or charters and private schools in the area,” he says. Rosemont students can participate in sports and other extra-curriculars at Greiner Middle School; one of the dual language students did play on Greiner’s football team, “but it’s two separate environments,” Dugger says. “You’re leaving your home school and going somewhere else.”

Though Rosemont’s middle school wasn’t a fit for Dugger’s family, he believes in the program and is glad neighborhood parents have the option. Though not officially a “choice school,” Rosemont was a pioneer in the concept, harnessing the power of parent advocacy and administrative support to create a dual language program and later a middle school.

The same kind of thing could happen in schools all over Oak Cliff, says Mike Koprowski, Dallas ISD chief of transformation and innovation, giving families even more options.

“The seed ideas are there; they’re moving forward,” Koprowski says. The district has invited not just principals and teachers but also parents, community members, even nonprofit organizations to submit ideas that would overhaul current schools and create new ones.

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“My guess is we will see West Dallas and Oak Cliff schools apply this time around in the 2.0 process,” Koprowski says.

 

Read all 5 reasons to maintain hope in Dallas ISD

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