Lawrence Township Spanish Immersion Program Remains Unaltered

Applause and cheers rang through the standing-room-only crowd at the Lawrence Township School Board meeting Monday after board members narrowly voted to keep the Spanish Immersion Program’s kindergarten at Forest Glen Elementary.

The 3-2 decision followed more than two hours of passionate comments from parents and staff members regarding the Balancing Enrollment Committee’s recommendation to move the 50 kindergarten students from Forest Glen to one of the district’s new Early Learning Centers (ELCs).

While board Vice President Lori Petrucciani said she thinks all kindergartners belong at an ELC, others did not agree. They sided with parents and Immersion teachers who argued that students and teachers in the program benefit from being immersed in the Spanish-only environment. The Immersion Program has been nationally heralded as a model for school districts nationwide.

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Several teachers from Forest Glen’s Global Studies program spoke about lost instructional time due to overcrowding at the school of nearly 700 students. However, moving 50 kindergarten students to another building would not begin to solve this problem.

The Balancing Enrollment Committee will continue its efforts to reduce enrollment at the district’s two magnet schools and boost enrollment at other schools with declining numbers. However, it will be done with the goal of increasing magnet offerings and possibly expanding these popular programs to schools on the west side of the district.

So no changes are in store for children who apply to magnet programs this fall, but expect big changes for the fall of 2008.

“I appreciate the passion of all the parents,” said School Board President Ed Stone, who, along with the other board members, received hundreds of emails on this issue.

One young man who will be very happy with the outcome of Monday’s vote is Jasper Suiter, the youngest of the 22 stakeholders to speak at the meeting. With two older brothers at Forest Glen, the tired four-year-old with a head full of curls simply told the board: “I want to go to school with my brothers.”

Wish granted, Jasper.

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