Possible realignment may affect elementary program

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A possible grade realignment in Lansing School District might affect the kids in Averill Elementary School’s Spanish Immersion Program

According to a recommendations report, the realignment would make Averill Elementary a pre-kindergarten to third grade school from a pre-kindergarten to fifth grade school starting the 2013-2014 school year.

Tina Diehl, a medical biller whose daughter Samantha, 7, attends Averill, said the recommendations won’t affect her daughter the first year, but will in the next year if the school changes grades.

The recommendations include changing several elementary schools into pre-kindergarten to third grade schools. Averill Elementary was one of the recommended schools.

Lansing citizens wait for the Lansing school board to call the meeting to order. Photo taken by Katie Hoffman

“She’s in the Spanish Immersion program, so my question is where is the program going now?” Diehl said. “I have no idea where it’s going.”

Rosa Thill, principal of Averill Elementary, said she was notified of the recommendations publically like everyone else.

“We have very good communication with our Spanish Immersion parents and the PTA,” Thill said. “Nothing is set in stone. These are just recommendations.”

According to a brochure that can be accessed on the Averill Elementary school website, students acquire Spanish as they learn other subjects in school, such as math and science.

The brochure says the teachers are bilingual in both Spanish and English and that students split their educational time learning in both languages.

Diehl said they don’t speak Spanish at home, and it’s just a new language for her daughter to learn.

“I just think the bilingual education will help her in the future,” Diehl said. “She knows it very well now.”

Diehl said her concern was whether they will continue the program into the middle school because they can’t have just a traditional introduction to Spanish class.

“All those kids are way beyond that now,” Diehl said. “So they actually have to continue that immersion education or they’re going to lose that all.”

Myra J. Ford, president of Lansing School District Board of Education, said in an email that no definite decision has been made at this time about changing the school. The plan is that if the recommendations are approved, the Spanish Immersion program at Averill will continue.

“We are in the process of holding public hearings to better inform and answer the questions of parents and other community members about the plan,” Ford said. “This is an effort to allow the board the time to hear their concerns and address them before making a decision that affects their children.”

Ford said that research shows that children who don’t have a good foundation in math, language arts and other core subjects by third grade have a great deal of difficulty keeping up with their peers from that point on.

“The idea of having pre-kindergarten to third grade programs will allow us to focus valuable resources on the goal of helping all of our students become successful,” Ford said

Ford said the current plan would have one of the 4-6 feeder schools for Averill also be a Spanish Immersion school if the recommendations go through. A feeder school is a school that receives students from a particular school.

“Many people are looking at a pre-kindergarten to 12th grade Spanish Immersion program as an option for our district and it will be seriously considered at a future time,” Ford said. “We are committed to provide our students with as many opportunities for learning as possible and are always looking at ways to accomplish that goal.”

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