Funding, lack of staffing among top concerns to expand Eanes ISD Spanish immersion program

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Eanes ISD’s Spanish immersion pilot programs at Cedar Creek and Bridge Point elementary schools have, by in large, been a success this school year, and strong interest from local families exists to see it expanded to more campuses, Deputy Superintendent Jeff Arnett reported Jan. 30 to Eanes ISD board trustees.

However, despite the positive feedback, program costs, current overall campus enrollment projections and a difficulty to staff the program with qualified teachers could hinder the program’s ability to grow.

Arnett said the district is in the process of deciding whether expansion of the program could be accomplished at one or two new campuses for the 2018-19 school year. The district is also evaluating which schools, if any, are the most logical for the program.

“We’re determining if the program should expand, including where, for whom and when,” he said. “I think we all know that we would like to see the program expand and we all know we would like to see it at multiple schools, but how many schools, which schools and whether that expansion occurs as early as next year or even perhaps the 2019-20 school year are questions.”

Arnett said the district is considering each of the remaining four elementary schools as candidates. However, it is difficult to quantify if one school base has shown more interest in the program than others, and enrollment trends show there is not an obvious consensuses for where expansion should occur, he said.

While the board does not need to approve any changes to the program, Superintendent Tom Leonard did ask the board for guidance. Based on feedback he said the staff will look at opening the program at a maximum of two locations for the coming school year, and staff will explore ways to cover some of the program’s costs, potentially through enrollment fees.

Trustee John Havenstrite said he hopes that the program’s admission process can be broadened to give families across the district, not just zoned for participating schools, an opportunity to apply. Trustee Julia Webber echoed the sentiment.

The board initially approved the pilot program for kindergartners at Cedar Creek Elementary School in February. After significant interest came in from Bridge Point Elementary School parents, the district expanded the program before the school year. The district made a three-year commitment to students who enroll in the program, Arnett said, and plans for a middle school complement to the program are being developed.

“We are starting to make decisions on what this program will look like once these students, who will be fluent [in Spanish]by the time they reach sixth grade, matriculate into the middle school,” he said.

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