Parents with children enrolled in the Dual Language Immersion program offered at the Logan City School District are breathing a sigh of relief as the Board of Education chose not to end one of the languages — for now.
When the board met on Tuesday, members heard from the public and considered a proposal that would make Hillcrest Elementary a fully DLI school in one year, but one of the current languages offered would be eliminated.
“I have a really hard time pitting those people who support the languages against each other,” said Board President Ann Geary.
This is after a committee of parents across the district along with teachers and school district leaders examined the pros and cons of multiple options — including keeping the program as is — and the majority felt a magnet school housing both Spanish and Portuguese would be the preference.
Superintendent Frank Schofield said after presenting the options to the board, he made individual calls to each board member to talk through preferences, which resulted in the proposal sent to parents and the board on Friday.
Benjamin George, who has a fourth-grade son and first-grade daughter in the Portuguese program at Hillcrest, said it was “a really short window for gathering public feedback. Also, it is disappointing that they intend to eliminate one of the languages.”
“And I was kind of scratching my head because I’m like, there was no transparency at all, like these meetings weren’t open,” he said. “There was no getting public comments, public feedback.”
Board Member Larry Williams said while there is no doubt the DLI program is beneficial, the entire district needed to thrive, not just the students doing well in the program. Williams said there was concern on the equity of funding for the program when there are other students struggling.
“All of us involved in this discussion need to make a greater effort to acknowledge and appreciate the fact that we have students who are currently underserved and not reaching their academic potential for a variety of reasons,” said the former educator who represents the Hillcrest area. “And if we don’t acknowledge that, that very real need, then this is going to be a struggle for the entire district in our community going forward.”
For Tessa Burton, a former Chinese DLI teacher who also served as the coordinator for the Utah State Board of Education, the argument ignored the fact that one-third of students in Logan City School District are Spanish speakers.
“Research shows that if you are proficient in your L1 (first language), you will be more proficient in your L2 (second language),” said the Hillcrest Portuguese parent. “So if they go to a dual-language immersion program in Spanish, where they have half their day in their native language, in Spanish, and half their day in English, they will achieve way more than if they’re in an ESL program.”
Schofield said there is not enough longitudinal data to support the claim in the district, but agreed with the research on English-learning students’ academic success.
“And it helps with a number of social-emotional benefits of self-concept, their perception of their home culture, et cetera,” he said.
There was not much feedback from Spanish-speaking parents on the proposal, either. Schofield said that is a demographic of the district where feedback is not often shared.
One woman, who lives on the northern end of the valley but enrolled her son in the Spanish program at Bridger, said many parents of the Spanish program did understand the program their children were enrolled in was at stake.
She wished to not be named for the article to avoid her child being treated differently, but said the recording sent to phones was hard to understand, and unless parents religiously check email, communication is often lost.
“Many of them don’t even understand or realize that they can speak more,” she said.
Justin Nunez, who also has a student in the program at Bridger, requested more time for Spanish-speaking families to give their input and questioned why Logan’s program keeps having so many problems.
“I keep thinking, in spite of all of the other problems that there are with other districts, they are also having these great successes,” he said. “And why cannot we have those same successes, you know, other districts are expanding. Why are we contracting?”
Schofield said enrollment in the program can be unpredictable, but the biggest challenges come from having both DLI and non-DLI students housed in the same school. He said while having a magnet school — like the proposal would make Hillcrest — that would be home to both languages would help solve some of the issues, though there would still be challenges.
“The goal of the district is to ensure that we’re addressing the full spectrum of need,” he said.
After hearing roughly an hour of public comment and then debating the issue further themselves, the board unanimously voted to table the decision until January so staff members could create a new proposal that would analyze the feasibility for both the Spanish and Portuguese programs to continue at Hillcrest.
The board will meet again in January, though Tuesday was the last meeting for Board Member Jenny Johnson. The District 2 seat will be filled by incoming member J. Gregg Miller.