American Renaissance

Dual-language School OK’d

Allison Sherry, Denver Post, Sep. 3

Northwest Denver’s Bryant-Webster Elementary will become what proponents say is the first dual-language K-8 school in the state, the Denver school board decided Thursday.

The vote came after an emotional debate about the changing needs in that part of the city.

Tears streamed down the faces of parents, neighborhood supporters and the school’s principal after the school board opted unanimously to transform the school into a dual-language Spanish-English program to begin next year.

A dual-language school differs from those with English Language Acquisition classes in that students should leave the school proficient in both Spanish and English. The school emphasizes bilingualism, not just learning English.

“This addresses the visions of the community,” said choked-up Erlinda Archuleta, the school’s principal. “I care about the parents and the community, and they care about this.”

The school, in the 3600 block of Quivas Street, is drawing only about two-thirds the students it did 10 years ago, said former principal Patricia Salazar, now a DPS administrator.

District leaders blame that on a rapidly changing Potter-Highland neighborhood, which used to be predominantly Latino and now has large numbers of white couples.

About 475 students go to school now at Bryant-Webster, and 56 percent of them are English-language learners.

Last year when she was principal, Salazar, along with Alan Gottlieb of the Piton Foundation, got parents together to discuss what they wanted in an elementary school.

“It was done the right way,” said Renee Martinez-Stone, who wants to send her children to a dual-language school. “I think it’s a success for the board that they responded to what the parents wanted.”

Before the vote, several school board members expressed concern that the neighborhood is gentrifying so quickly that eventually there might not be enough Spanish speakers to support the program. Dual-language schools usually need 50 percent Spanish speakers and 50 percent English speakers, Gottlieb said.

There is already another Spanish-English program at Academia Ana Marie Sandoval, a Montessori school a few blocks away, that is not at capacity with its Spanish-speaking population.

“What has Sandoval done to recruit Spanish-speaking children?” asked board member Michelle Moss, who represents southwest Denver, which has schools brimming with English-language learners.

The district may eventually bus students to Bryant-Webster.

Original article

(Posted on September 8, 2004)

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