Spanish Immersion Program on chopping block

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – As Richmond school board members work round the clock to fill an $18-million budget shortfall, parents at two elementary schools are working to save one of the programs on the chopping block.

Hablo espanol? Dozens of five and six year olds in Richmond can. They sing it too. Dana Taylor enrolled for her daughter Nyla at South Hampton because of the Spanish Immersion program, which launched last year in two Richmond schools. Every day her daughter spends an hour learning math and science in Spanish.

"For her to be able to interact with other kids her age but of a different culture on somewhat of an even field as far as the language barrier I think that is absolutely wonderful. They can teach her, she can teach them," said Taylor.

Taylor says she couldn't believe it when she learned the program may be cut.

"I listen to how are schools talking about creating diversity for the children and making them more competitive for the future and this is a program that does exactly that," she said.

School leaders say cutting the program would save the district $200,000. But to parents like Jennifer Lawyer Brown the program is priceless.

"Please continue Spanish immersion. It's meant such a huge, just a huge part of our family life and we just would really want it to continue," said Brown.

She recently adopted three little girls from Peru. One daughter already takes the class. Brown was counting on 5 year old Celedonia starting it next year.

"They all are learning English and the biggest part of the Spanish immersion program for Miriam is that half of her day in Spanish. That has really helped to ease her into learning English tremendously," said Brown.

School board members decided today to schedule one more budget work session for this Saturday. The school board could vote to finalize the superintendent's budget next Tuesday night at 6:00 on the second floor of City Hall.

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