Cristina Castro is director of communications and outreach at Berwyn South School District 100.

Beginning with the 2015-2016 school year, Berwyn South School District 100 will launch its new dual language program at one of its eight schools, Emerson Elementary School.

District 100’s board of education, working with district administrators, is continually committed to providing its students with the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to be successful in today’s global society. That vision and bold leadership has allowed District 100 staff the opportunity to research and offer programs that meet those goals.

Dual language programs allow students to learn academic content in two languages. Also, students enrolled in the program benefit by being able to speak, read, and write fluently in English and Spanish; increase their academic achievement when enrolled long-term in the program; improve their cultural awareness and appreciation of diversity; boost their social and emotional well being; and increase their level of cognitive capacity and critical thinking skills. Language proficiency beyond English is an important tool in the educational, political, cultural, and economic affairs of our society.

In developing its own program, District 100 created an educational advisory group comprised of members of the Berwyn community and District 100 staff. The Bilingual DACEE committee carefully evaluated and researched various programs from across the state and nation. The committee learned about best practices, curriculum development, and success rates for students enrolled in these programs. Based on the research conducted and benefits to District 100 students, the committee recommended the district implement its own dual language program.

After the recommendation, District 100 began the process. During the 2014-2015 school year, the district began planning for the program implementation in three elementary schools — Emerson, Hiawatha, and Komensky — by developing the class curriculum and assessments, determining the language allocation model, developing the selection criteria, training teachers and administrators, and reaching out to the District 100 community to educate people on the program and recruit student participants.

For the 2015-2016 school year, Emerson will begin offering the program at the kindergarten grade level. It will expand next year to include first grade. In addition to the expansion at Emerson, two other schools will come online and offer dual language as well. The program will gradually expand by adding grade levels and schools until the district offers the program to students through eighth grade.

The popularity of the program in District 100 is evident as Emerson’s two dual language kindergarten classes are at capacity. Beatriz Maldonado, principal of Emerson is thrilled with the response to the program. “Parents and students are excited about the program,” said Maldonado “They are excited to see District 100 offer the program.”

Berwyn South School District 100 is the only district in the surrounding area offering a dual language program to its students. Along with its other successful offerings such as a 1:1 Wireless Device Program, preschool initiatives, and all-day kindergarten, District 100 continues to explore new avenues to enhance student learning.