New parent group hopes to help School Board decide where to house expanded immersion program

POCKLINGTONThe Lake Oswego School Board decided unanimously last week to honor the commitment that previous board members made in June to expand the district's popular Spanish Immersion Program with a second strand of classes for students in kindergarten and first grade.

The board is still in the preliminary stages of planning the second strand. During the Oct. 9 School Board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Joe Morelock raised three questions designed to aid in that planning:

-- The first was whether to move forward with a second strand of Spanish Immersion, and the board had no trouble agreeing.

"I feel really strongly that we need to honor the commitment that the previous board made, that has already been communicated to the public," board member Sarah Pocklington said. "I think it would be a huge disservice to the community to reopen a conversation that has already included a significant amount of public comment and a task force."

-- The second question posed by Morelock was whether the second strand of immersion should take place at River Grove Elementary School, where the Spanish Immersion program is currently housed, or whether other locations should be explored.

No answer was reached on this question, but it was proposed by Pocklington that a "small and nimble task force of teachers, principals and parents" be created to determine where the expanded Spanish Immersion Program would best serve students.

-- Morelock's last question was whether the board would be interested in choosing a language other than Spanish to be the focus of the second strand. Pocklington stood fast in her resolution to keep the commitment that the board made in June, saying the district needs to first successfully implement a second Spanish strand before looking to expand into another language.

"I am a huge supporter of immersion in any language," she said. "I think there is a lot of value in immersion itself. However, I think that the commitment has already been made in regards to a second strand."

Board member Bob Barman echoed Pocklington's sentiments, saying he's also supportive of incorporating another language, such as Mandarin, into the immersion program in the future.

"I would love to see it happen next year, because it's the way of the world," Barman said. "These kids who are being born today, whether they realize it or not, are living in a global world, and they need to have this experience."

Julie Watson, who has two children in the Spanish Immersion Program (and a third who will take part upon entering kindergarten), told the board she has seen firsthand the value of Spanish Immersion.

"I have experienced how amazing the teachers are," she said, "and how great the program has been for my children, and for the district."

Watson and fellow Spanish Immersion parent Abigail Haffner said they plan to form a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) for parents of students in Spanish Immersion.

"We are hoping to be an umbrella that assists in advocating for teachers' needs, streamlining communication with parents and in some instances raising funds and awareness for the program," Watson said. "We also hope to advocate for foreign language for all students. We believe that Lake Oswego can have the best immersion program in the state."

Haffner told the board that she and Watson have been researching other Spanish Immersion programs since the spring and found that the most successful and long-standing programs all have PTOs. She said she hopes the PTO she's helping to form can assist in the planning process for the second strand of Spanish Immersion.

Watson said she feels strongly about the importance of Spanish Immersion and wants to be able to communicate that more clearly to other parents, in part through the PTO.

"As parents, we are raising global citizens," she said, "and the ability to speak and read another language is going to be crucial for our children as we prepare them for the future."

Contact Lake Oswego Review reporter Claire Holley at 503-636-1281 ext. 109 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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