“Buenos dias!” At some Metropolitan School District (MSD) of Lawrence Township schools, this is a familiar greeting heard every day, and not just by students who speak Spanish as a first language. That’s because these students are part of a Kindergarten through grade 12 dual language immersion program offered at select schools in the district.
The MSD of Lawrence Township has been home to nationally recognized dual language programming for over thirty years.
The elementary program is currently housed at two schools: Forest Glen Elementary and Skiles Test Elementary. After grade 6, students from these two schools move on to Fall Creek Valley Middle School and then Lawrence North High School to continue their immersion experience. Upon graduation, students graduate with an Indiana certificate of biliteracy and an international diploma recognized by the Ministry of Spain.
According to Forest Glen Elementary principal, Mr. Jerome Lahlou, “Students in high quality dual immersion programs like those offered in Lawrence Township learn a second language in a student-centered environment that emphasizes literacy and the integration of humanities and Hispanic literature.”
At the elementary level, immersion students in Kindergarten through grade 2 receive 80% of their instruction in Spanish and 20% in English. In grade 3, the model of instruction is the same, but the language allocation plan changes to 70% Spanish and 30% English, preparing students for required state assessments. In grades 4 through 6, the language allocation changes to 50% Spanish and 50% English. Teachers are fully proficient in the language they use for instruction, and in nearly all situations, are native speakers of that language.
Assistant Director of English as a New Language (ENL), Mrs. Erika Tran, wears two hats when it comes to dual language programming in the district. Beyond her professional role, she is the mother of two students in the program. “Growing up in a bilingual home taught me the importance of language and an appreciation of cultures that differ from my own,” Tran says. “Now as the Assistant Director of ENL, I am able to advocate for and support programs that develop student bilingualism and cross-cultural awareness. It is wonderful to see students who graduate from our dual language programs go into the world utilizing their bilingual skills in a variety of fields.”
In 2018, due to program popularity, dual immersion was expanded to Skiles Test Elementary. Keeping with the school’s focus on STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics), Skiles Test added Spanish Dual Language Immersion to its curriculum. Unique to this school, Skiles Test blends Spanish immersion with existing robotics, coding and environmental science programs. Both Skiles Test and Forest Glen Elementary Schools are STEM-certified by the Indiana Department of Education. “Our immersion program is complemented by our STEM certification, supporting a learning environment that will allow students to compete in a fluid, technological, multicultural and global marketplace,” says principal Dr. Justin Hunter. “At both Skiles Test and Forest Glen, all students participate in foundational programs introducing computer science and hands-on innovation. Students are given the opportunity to further deepen their STEM experiences with participation in extracurricular clubs, including robotics.”
Students in the dual language program are provided a learning environment that fosters equitable instructional systems and cultivates compassionate, autonomous, and problem-solving bilingual ambassadors.
Learn more about the dual language offerings at MSD Lawrence schools by visiting the Forest Glen Elementary website (forestglen.ltschools.org) and Skiles Test Elementary website (skilestest.ltschools.org).