‘White Flight’ Sparks Calls For Dual Language

Gina Guarascio, Vail Daily, July 4, 2006

Carbondale—Adrienne Davis graduated from Carbondale’s Roaring Fork High School in 1999. She is now a teacher at Edwards Elementary School where in a few years all the classes will be taught in both Spanish and English.

Starting this fall, all kindergarten classes will be dual language. And as those classes move up, eventually the entire school will be bilingual.

It is a solution that is working in Edwards, Davis said, where formerly about 80 percent of the kids in the elementary school were Hispanic.

“It is definitely a positive thing,” Davis said. “The kids are all playing together. They’re all in the same shoes, (because) they know what it feels like not to know the language. They have more appreciation for each other.

“It’s so neat to see the parents getting together talking about how their kids are doing. It’s a union of cultures,” she said.

Dual-language learning is a two-way immersion program where native English and Spanish speakers first learn to read and write in their native tongue, while being exposed to oral lessons in their non-native language. The kids are then taught other subjects like math, science and social studies in both languages.

The Roaring Fork School District has had a dual-language program for more than a decade at Basalt Elementary School. And Carbondale may be next.

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“Edwards was facing the same situation (as Carbondale),” he said. “They had a huge amount of white flight. At one point, their school was less than 20 percent Anglo. Now, their school is 50/50 Anglo to Latino.”

It’s estimated that Crystal River is between 70 and 80 percent Hispanic, while the opposite is true at Carbondale’s other two public elementary schools, Carbondale Community School and Ross Montessori School, which are about 70 to 80 percent Anglo.

“It’s sad, and it would be great to find a way to make our schools more balanced,” Teitler said.

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As an alumna of the Carbondale schools, Davis, who learned Spanish while spending six months in Costa Rica during high school, thinks Carbondale students could benefit from getting a jump on a second language at an early age.

“It’s really segregated within the cultures. I think dual-language is what Carbondale needs,” said Davis, who also teaches an adult language class where Spanish and English speakers get together to learn from each other.

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