MANCHESTER, N.H. – A decade or so from now, Manchester’s public schools may become best known for producing an inordinate number of bilingual graduates.
On Wednesday, the Manchester Board of School Committee Teaching and Learning Committee unanimously recommended a proposal to create specialized schools within the Manchester School District where instruction is given in two separate languages called “Dual Language Immersion” or DLI.
In the proposal, elementary school students would spend half of their academic day learning subjects in their native language and half of their day learning subjects in a “target” language, which would most likely be French or Spanish in Manchester’s schools. Each language would have its own teacher and there would only be one language spoken at a time, but students would learn subjects in the target language while also learning the target language itself, with English learning and subject reinforcement occurring with the native language teacher.
As the students get older, the ratio of subjects taught change as the students are groomed for advanced placement courses or even university level courses in the target language by high school.
Manchester School Department Superintendent Dr. John Goldhardt described the concept’s success in Utah, his native state.
Goldhardt said that the concept is only successful when introduced to students early, preferably in the first grade. Students arriving in district after third grade would have to be placed in a non-DLI school. The concept also doesn’t work if only parts of a school follow the concept, with a “haves and have-nots” situation arising between the separate parts.
He added that the program would be optional and parents would be offered free transportation to non-neighborhood schools for their children if they wanted to opt-out of the program, which would also be given to parents of incoming students coming in after first or second grade.
However, in his experience, he told the committee that generally parents jumped at the chance to enroll their children in such schools and it substantially increased volunteerism with students where the parents are fluent in the target language.
No specific schools were named in the proposal and it is unclear if there will be DLI schools in Spanish, French or both languages.
Goldhardt recommended that if approved by the full Board of School Committee, a school should begin the program at the first grade level in the Fall of 2021, adding subsequent grades each year as those initial students advance through the district.
More information on the proposal can be found on the agenda for the committee meeting.