Dear Parents and Guardians,
For several weeks, the Eanes ISD administration has considered interest in and the feasibility of expanding the Futuro Spanish Immersion program in 2018-19 to one or more of the four remaining elementary schools. The current pilot is completing a successful first year with kindergarten students at Cedar Creek and Bridge Point elementary schools. In this decision-making process, numerous aspects and data points have been reviewed, including current class sizes, future enrollment projections, the number of sections in each grade level at various schools, parent support, teacher input, staffing constraints, the availability of qualified bilingual teaching candidates and financial implications. All of these considerations were presented in two meetings to the Eanes ISD Board of Trustees over the past two months.
Considering the Data
In order to assess the possibility of expansion, we looked at community interest and launched a survey to gauge how many families might be interested in Spanish Immersion for their children, as well as the viability of expanding the program beyond kindergarten. Parents at all elementary schools demonstrated interest.
Next, the administration carefully studied the demographer's enrollment trends and projections for 2018-19 and subsequent years to find a logistical rationale for expanding the program. Valley View and Forest Trail were identified to have varied space and capacity constraints, and both campuses may also experience the modification or addition of the District's Child Development Center next year (which is still to be determined). When possible, the school district does not want to introduce too much change in one year on any given campus.
Narrowing the Options
Barton Creek was also considered in the expansion conversation and drew a significant amount of interest from its parents. However, based on the demographer's report, BCE is not expected to grow beyond three sections in both kindergarten and first grade for the foreseeable future. This is problematic because the language immersion model is based on a four-section grade level structure that allows flexibility in section/class configuration to meet the needs of all students in that grade level. Expanding the program to BCE would leave only one class of general education (i.e. English-only speaking) kindergarten, while the other two classes would comprise the Spanish Immersion cohort. Consequently, one class of students could be isolated to themselves not only in kindergarten but every year through fifth grade as the students advance.
Making the Recommendation
Eanes Elementary, on the other hand, has projected enrollment to sustain at least four sections from kindergarten through fifth grade, which would allow a balance of two general education sections and two Spanish Immersion sections. In the administration's view, this affords parents sufficient choice and allows for greater variety and options in future class rosters as students move from one grade level to the next.
As such, Eanes Elementary has emerged as the most viable school for expansion of Spanish Immersion in 2018-19 as long as there is sufficient enrollment to support the program on that campus. However, the expansion will occur slowly and only in kindergarten because Eanes Elementary will likely lose one first-grade section next year due to a lesser enrollment at that level. The administration believes the introduction of immersion in first grade combined with the displacement of at least one teacher would not be an ideal scenario for a first-grade implementation. The four sections of kindergarten are expected to continue into first grade and beyond the following years.
Anticipating the Response
While parents of incoming kindergarten students at Eanes Elementary may be pleased by this decision, we understand many parents at Barton Creek, Valley View, Forest Trail and even parents of rising Eanes Elementary first graders will be disappointed. These decisions and the impact they could have on desired opportunities were approached respectfully. At this time, no conclusion has been reached on the possible future expansion of Spanish Immersion to the remaining schools and other grade levels. That decision may be revisited again during the 2018-19 school year, again, following research and review of the many factors previously mentioned.
Remaining Challenges and Considerations
Imperative in this process is the desire to retain our current general education teachers, who - even if displaced by the introduction of Spanish Immersion in the present grade level - are still considered valued members of the Eanes ISD staff. We will ensure no current Eanes ISD employee will lose their employment in Eanes ISD due to the expansion of this program.
Still to be decided is whether any spots in the expanded program may accommodate intra-district transfer students from other Eanes ISD schools, depending on demand. Also to be considered is whether the process for all schools this year will be a first-come, first-served application or a lottery. Those aspects of the expanded program will be determined in the next three weeks before enrollment opens for Spanish Immersion March 20.
We appreciate parental support for this decision, understanding some will be pleased and some will be disappointed. The Board of Trustees' confidence in the administration to objectively weigh all the variables and recommend the most responsible course of action on behalf of students was not taken lightly. The school district, therefore, looks forward to accepting 2018-19 applications for kindergarten Spanish Immersion at Eanes Elementary as well as kindergarten and first-grade Spanish Immersion at Bridge Point and Cedar Creek - contingent on sufficient parent applications at each school.
Thank you to all who provided input, whether through emails, calls, board meetings or the survey. We appreciate your involvement in the process.
Dr. Tom Leonard
Superintendent of Schools