Saugus District, Highlands Elementary hold first dual immersion informational meeting

Dr. Isa De Armas, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Service shows a graph of the benefits of dual immersion during the Dual Language Immersion Program Community Presentation held at Highlands Elementary School in Santa Clarita on Tuesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

More than 125 Santa Clarita parents got their first glimpse of the Saugus Union School District’s Spanish dual language immersion program during an informational meeting held at Highlands Elementary Tuesday.

The SUSD program is set to begin in August of this year, and parents learned at the meeting not only how to enroll their future kindergartener, but also about what the district’s “90/10” model means for their child’s bilingual education.

“What this means is our students in these classes will be taught 90 percent in Spanish and 10 percent in English,” said SUSD Assistant Superintendent Isa De Armas. “The Spanish curriculum will be the exact same thing as the English curriculum … but your student will be receiving a bilingual education at the same time.”

Dr. Isa de Armas, right, introduces a video entitled Benefits of the Bilingual Brain to the dozens of attendees during the Dual Language Immersion Program Community Presentation held at Highlands Elementary School in Santa Clarita on Tuesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

A chart showed how the dual-language usage within the classroom would balance to 50/50 by the time the students’ class had reached the 6th grade. And according to De Armas, the program would not harm the student’s performance in English-related subjects when compared against their peers who are not enrolled in a dual immersion program.

“Research shows ‘90/10’ is a positive program, and students have been very successful as bilingual (learners),” said De Armas. “In fact, the data shows these students outperform (monolingual) students.”

Administrators presented studies that indicated the brains of “90/10” students, as opposed to monolingual students, develop an ability at a young age to problem solve through multiple viewpoints, as well as better retain fluency in both English and Spanish for a longer period of time than they would if they started learning a second language later in life.

And although the program is only available to kids who will be entering kindergarten at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, they did emphasize the program and Highlands Elementary offers open enrollment for all Santa Clarita families.

Bilingual translator Perla Castro, right, signs in attendees at the Dual Language Immersion Program Community Presentation held at Highlands Elementary School in Santa Clarita on Tuesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

“We have a transfer process … so if a family wants their kindergartener to enroll in the program, but their older sibling is in a higher grade, the older student can transfer to Highlands if there’s space in classrooms for their grade,” said De Armas. “The program is only for (incoming) kindergartners … but we want to keep families together.”

By the end of the Tuesday meeting, 47 families had filled out paperwork expressing interest in the program. Highlands Principal Susan Bender said they plan to make space for two DLI classrooms, or approximately 50 students total in the first year.

The second informational meeting planned for this this week is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Thursday in the Highlands Elementary School multi-purpose room.

Those who did not attend either meeting but are interested in learning more about the Dual Language Immersion program have been encouraged to contact De Armas at idearmas@saugususd.org or by phone at 661-294-5300.

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