The New Hanover County school district will host an informational session later this month for parents interested in the recently expanded Spanish immersion program.
The meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 25, is aimed at addressing the approach and benefits of the program. It will be held at Gregory School of Science, Mathematics and Technology, the new site for Spanish immersion beginning in August.
Last month, a divided board of education voted to move the program, currently housed at Forest Hills Global Elementary School, to Gregory as part of sweeping reforms to the district’s struggling magnet schools. The motion passed 4-3, with members Lisa Estep, Tammy Covil and Bruce Shell dissenting.
Magnet schools, which receive additional funding for their programs, are open to all students in the county, with transportation provided regardless of where they live. Last year, district administrators saw a need to “revision” Freeman School of Engineering, Snipes Academy of Arts and Design, Virgo Preparatory Academy and Gregory, all of which were deemed failing on state tests and had suffered waning enrollment.
But at the heart of the school board’s split vote was debate over the relocation of Spanish immersion, which superintendent Tim Markley was proposed to address overcrowding at Forest Hills, expand the program through eighth grade and open it up to students across the county.
Since its inception several years ago, the program has been open to students countywide, though preference is given to those in the Forest Hills district. Spanish immersion consistently has a waiting list due to high demand and that demand has put a crunch space. This school year, Forest Hills’ art room and the library have been turned into temporary classrooms.
As part of the move, Gregory will slowly shift its curriculum completely, phasing out its current STEM programs until students move to high school and implementing in the meantime a dual language initiative that would put Spanish immersion students in the same school with native Spanish-speaking students.
Other changes to magnet schools include a boost to the arts focus at Snipes through the addition of a K-5 instrumental music program and creation of performance groups. Freeman will see strongers partnerships with area businesses like General Electric.
And Virgo will expand Project Lead the Way, a national engineering program, to sixth through eighth grades. The district also wants to strengthen the school’s central focus on robotics and computer programming through participation in eCYBERMISSION, a national robotics competition run by the U.S. Army.
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at email@example.com.