The Rockingham County School Board approved easements and discussed redistricting and possibilities for a dual immersion program at Monday night’s meeting.
The school board unanimously approved two easements for RCPS schools, including one for a new sewer system discharge line for Linville-Edom Elementary School. The approval of the easement will allow for bids to be placed for the new discharge line in the fall.
Superintendent Oskar Scheikl discussed future redistricting for the county due to changes in school capacity with the expansion of Broadway High School. Scheikl said discussions concerning redistricting would occur over the summer and into the fall, with decisions for the 2024-25 school year taking place in the fall.
Broadway High School is a year away from finishing its expansion, Scheikl said, which will allow for a 250-student capacity increase. Scheikl said the board will need to consider whether to alleviate the growth in the Spotswood attendance area by moving some students to the Broadway attendance area, or whether additional steps like shifting elementary school attendance areas to balance out class sizes.
Scheikl presented potential changes to attendance areas drawn by the transportation department that would impact the population for different schools as a starting point for discussions surrounding changing school lines. Many elementary schools in the county have widely differing student numbers which impacts class sizes.
“Some of these movements of moving students to some of the other elementary schools again helps balance that out across the county,” Scheikl said.
Scheikl said a database would be available to the board to change lines to see the shifting of school populations.
Scheikl also presented on the intricacies of dual immersion programs for the county, after school board member Matt Cross brought up the topic at the May 8 meeting.
Advantages of creating a dual immersion program included immersion into a foreign language that differed from typical foreign language classes and benefits to native speakers of the foreign language. Scheikl said the program would likely focus on Spanish and English.
Scheikl noted that there were also several concerns to consider, including staffing, interest and fairness. Scheikl said he talked to the superintendent in Winchester, Va., who uses Participate Learning, which brings in native Spanish teachers licensed in Virginia on a cultural ambassador visa, which only allows the teacher to stay for three years. Scheikl said Winchester had good experiences with the program.
The focus of implementing a dual immersion program, Scheikl said, would be on interest levels. Scheikl said a detailed feasibility study would need to be conducted to understand the interest level of students. Most likely, there would be two classes per grade level, one taught in English and Spanish at different times of the day. A third class would be needed for students who didn’t want to participate in dual immersion. Scheikl said there would need to be enough interest to fill two out of the three classes.
Fairness in terms of who was able to participate in dual immersion programs would also need to be accounted for, Scheikl said. Dual immersion programs are generally held from elementary school to high school. Scheikl said only having some schools with immersion programs, as is usually the case, would prevent students zoned for non dual immersion program schools to participate.
Scheikl said dual immersion programs are more likely to occur in cities rather than rural areas like Rockingham County due to the high levels of interest and the compact nature of a city. In Harrisonburg, for example, Scheikl said, those who would want to participate in the program but weren’t zoned for it would travel to a different school as many schools are no more than 10 minutes apart. The same wouldn’t be possible for Rockingham County.
Testing and accreditation would also need to be taken under consideration, as students would be learning a topic in Spanish but taking tests used for accreditation in English.
Also during the school board meeting, school board member Dan Breeden announced he submitted his letter of intent to step down from his position effective July 1 and Vice Chair Charlette McQuilkin said the board would announce the new superintendent soon, aiming to announce the position in May.
Scheikl stated, " Advantages of creating a dual immersion program included immersion into a foreign language that differed from typical foreign language classes and benefits to native speakers of the foreign language. Scheikl said the program would likely focus on Spanish and English. " So explain to me again, just what "advantages" did Scheikl cite? He stated a "purpose" but I did not identify any "advantages." Yep...head of the school system.
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