South Orangetown Central School District

A team of William O. Schaefer Elementary School administrators and teachers visited Winfield L. Morse School in Sleepy Hollow and the John Paulding School in Tarrytown today to observe their dual language programs in action. The trip–a return visit–is the latest step in a comprehensive exploratory process that began last fall to explore the potential for piloting a Spanish/English dual language program at WOS.

In June, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction Brian Culot and Principal Sheila Beglin hosted an information meeting with parents of kindergartners entering the district in September to gauge interest in world language instruction. Based on the strong response, WOS expanded its world language enrichment offerings this year to include 12 sections of Spanish–as well as four sections of French and two sections of Italian–before and after school programs.

Dual language programs offer students the opportunity to become bilingual, biliterate and bicultural as part of their daily academic and social experience. “Extensive research indicates that, in the long run, English Language Learners and their monolingual peers in dual language programs consistently outperform peers in monolingual programs,” reports WOS Assistant Principal Maggie White, who previously taught in a dual language program.

New York State requires schools with 20 or more students in the same grade level with the same primary language to offer a bilingual education program. Although SOCSD is not yet at this threshold, enrollment of primary Spanish speakers has steadily increased in recent years.

“Building students’ cultural competency as global citizens is among our District’s strategic goals,” says Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction Dr. Brian Culot. “Piloting a dual language program would enable us to meet the needs of both our English Language Learners and English-speaking students whose families are seeking a more immersive language and cultural academic experience.”

This morning, the WOS team observed kindergarten and first grade dual language classes and met with teachers and administrators to discuss scheduling, assessment and staffing.

Visits to Tarrytown and other local school districts, as well as meetings with the Hudson Valley Bilingual Education Resource Network, have helped inform the WOS team’s work to develop a potential model for implementation. “During this summer’s hiring process, we were very fortunate to hire two bilingual teachers to join the staff at WOS. This is part of our planning process as we continue to research the launch of a dual language program,” noted Principal Sheila Beglin. “We have begun diving into the details of planning how this program would look and work to best meet the needs of our school community.”

The decision whether WOS will pilot a dual language program for incoming kindergartners in September 2020 is expected to be finalized by early February.

WOS team observes dual language lesson at Paulding School in Tarrytown