The Duval County School district wants more non-Hispanic students to join its dual-language program.
The program teaches students core subjects in English and Spanish, and most of the students come from Hispanic families.
Amanda Tygart teaches third-graders at Beauclerc Elementary. On Wednesday afternoon she was teaching her class math — in Spanish.
The kids were calculating the dimensions of rooms in a house printed on their worksheets. When she asked if an answer was correct, the class responded with “si” in unison.
“We have been learning about area for the last probably three weeks,” she said.
Tygart teaches them in Spanish for half of the day, and her teaching partner picks up the rest.
“She does reading and science in English, and I do reading and math in Spanish, and it flip-flops every year,” Tygart said.
One of her students, 8-year-old Tristan Closson has been in the program since kindergarten. He’s got bright blonde hair and a snaggle tooth. His family doesn’t speak Spanish, but he said it’s kind of cool he does.
“You get to learn a little bit of their culture and what words they use for different meanings,” he said.
Non-Hispanic kids like Tristan make up just over 20 percent of the students. Most of the 833 dual-language students come from families with at least one Hispanic parent.
Program director Vanessa Mangual wants to encourage more parents like Tristan’s to consider the program.
“This matters because we need a better balance,” she said.
Mangual said the program isn’t only about helping children become bilingual, but also bicultural, which as Tygart said is a gift.
“What an opportunity that you’re going to give your children,” Tygart said. “It is just amazing to see the growth, the vocabulary. They have twice the vocabulary of a monolingual.”
Mangual said a few years ago, the district was having the opposite issue with not enough Hispanic students joining.
Although currently most of the program’s students are Hispanic, only about 40 percent of the children speak Spanish as their first language. Tygart said that balance is on par.
Beauclerc is one of three Duval elementaries that offer the program through fifth grade. Dupont Middle School offers it too.
Duval’s dual-language program will be one of many featured at Saturday's school choice expo at the Prime Osborn Convention Center from 11 a.m.to 3 p.m.
Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.