By Sharon Aron Baron
Parents and supporters of the Dual Language program at Riverglades Elementary School in Parkland are urging the school board to allocate funding for the Duel Language program.
Broward County Public Schools offers English/Spanish two-way, K-12 immersion in 40 schools.
However, despite the growing interest from local parents and increasing student enrollment, the program has faced ongoing challenges since its inception in 2017 due to insufficient district funding and support.
Concerned Parents created the Friends of Riverglades Dual Language initiative. In a statement, they shared their learning on a recent call with the BCPS Dual Language Program’s leaders that it has no guaranteed funding allocation from the county or the state, unlike Gifted and ESE.
A petition requesting funding and creating a Broward County Dual Language Advisory Council generated several hundred signatures and was presented to the school board on February 8.
According to the group, the lack of funding has resulted in several issues, including insufficient teacher hiring and retention, Spanish-language curriculum enrichment, and student academic assistance.
Furthermore, they stated that the inaugural Dual Language class at Riverglades is due to graduate from Westglades Middle School this year. Still, the school board has not provided a definitive plan for Dual Language teacher hiring or program design at the middle school level.
Parsiri Stelnik, a member of the Friends of Riverglades Dual Language initiative and a parent with a first-grader enrolled in the program, emphasized its importance.
According to Stelnik, no other comprehensive K-12 program in the county gives students, including those who do not have native Spanish speakers at home, the opportunity to become truly bilingual.
She added that more than a quarter of households in Broward County include a fluent Spanish speaker, making the program even more valuable.
On March 11, Riverglades Dual Language families plan to showcase a parade float during the “Parkland Day: 60th Anniversary Celebration.” According to members, more than 150 supporters are expected to accompany the float.
The BCPS Dual Language Program offers a school-within-a-school approach to second-language acquisition. Its goal is to allow students to become fully bilingual by learning, listening, speaking, reading, and writing in English and Spanish, beginning in kindergarten or first grade.
According to Victoria Saldala, Director of the Bilingual/ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Department of Broward County Public Schools, the district only provides a basic Spanish curriculum, paid for with a combination of funds pulled out of ESOL and grant money.
Beyond the basic curriculum, no funding is allocated at Riverglades or any other Broward County public school for Dual Language teacher compensation, enrichments, or academic support for students.
Danielle Hoffman, a Riverglades parent, emphasized that the lack of transparency on the program’s funding sources and annual budgets is one of the many reasons the petition requests the creation of a Broward Dual Language Advisory Council to represent the interests of parents and other stakeholders with the Broward County school board.
The program’s supporters call for funding for teacher acquisition and retention, curriculum development, student academic assistance, and long-term planning into the middle and high school grades. Creating a Broward Dual Language Advisory Council is also requested to ensure ongoing representation within Broward County Schools.
As a first-generation American with roots in Peru, Hoffman expressed the importance of the Dual Language program for her children’s future success and cultural enrichment. She hopes her children will learn Spanish to connect to their family culture and history.
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- Sharon Aron Baron is a Parkland resident and editor of Talk Media. She has been covering Parkland news since 2012. Parkland Talk was created to provide News, Views, and Entertainment for the residents of Parkland.
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