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Warren Township school receives almost $100,000 for Spanish immersion pilot

Alan Petersime

Pleasant Run Elementary School in Warren Township was one of five schools in the state chosen to begin a dual-language immersion pilot program.

The school’s program, which would be for Spanish, was awarded about $100,000 from the Indiana Department of Education today to establish the pilot. Kids would be required to begin the program in kindergarten or first grade and have at least one-half of its instruction in English, and one-half in Spanish, or another department-approved language. The grant was made possible by a law passed earlier this year championed by Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, the chair of the House education committee.

The bills that included the grant program, eventually culminating in the passage of Senate Bill 267, received support from legislators in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle. State Superintendent Glenda Ritz said the money given to Pleasant Run and the four other schools, totaling a little more than $400,000, will help kids as they move toward a more global future.

“Today’s grant recipients have created innovative and sustainable plans to broaden the horizons of their students,” state Superintendent Glenda Ritz said in a statement. “I look forward to working with them on these important programs moving forward.”

Indianapolis already has a few successful language immersion programs. School 74, an Indianapolis Public Schools Spanish immersion program, is one of the district’s top scorers on ISTEP. Forest Glen Elementary School in Lawrence Township just began its 20th year teaching children in both Spanish and English, and the private International School on the city’s north side was founded in 1994.

Mariama Carson, part of The Mind Trust’s education entrepreneur fellowship, also just got the go-ahead from the Indianapolis Charter School Board to open up another language immersion school, called Global Prep, in Lafayette Square next year.

Many educators back language immersion as a way for students to not only learn English better, but apply that learning to their native languages as well. The city’s immersion schools consistently perform well on state tests. Behning said one reason he supported the original bill was because of the potential it gave kids to learn languages that could net them jobs later on, as more and more global companies are moving into the area.

“There is really no tool to measure the benefits because there are so many that we don’t even know,” Forest Glen assistant principal Jerome Omar Lahlou told Chalkbeat earlier this year. “You feel like you can achieve things that were not even possible, that you can achieve anything in life.”

Three years ago, Warren Township was one of just 16 districts across the country to receive a federal Race to the Top grant. The district is using the $28.5 million to expand it’s career center, technology use and learning options for students.

The other winners are Batesville Primary School ($87,017), Poston Road Elementary School in Martinsville ($52,710), Parkview Elementary School in Valparaiso ($82,817) and Eisenhower Elementary School in Warsaw ($100,000).

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