Schools expand bilingual reach

Glendale News Press

GLENDALE — Each year, the Foreign Language Academy of Glendale continues to expand its global reach.

Glendale Unified's dual-language immersion program will reach middle schools next year. It will reach new destinations at new elementary schools, and it has transformed Franklin Elementary School. English-only instruction will be phased out at the west Glendale school during the next few years, officials said.

"Every year it grows another grade level at each of the sites," said Joanna Junge, the district's director of special projects, intercultural education and professional development. "The parents at a variety of different schools are asking about how they can have one of the languages or a language at one of their schools."

Next year, dual-language immersion programs will expand into Toll Middle School, Verdugo Woodlands Elementary, and R.D. White elementary schools, all of which will join Jefferson, Franklin, Keppel elementary schools as FLAG campuses.

Depending on the language, FLAG programs offer varying degrees of English and foreign language instruction in Spanish, Armenian, Korean, Italian, German and Japanese.

Families both in and out of Glendale Unified can enroll. Students are typically fluent by the sixth grade, said Stephen Williams, principal of Franklin Elementary School.

"It really pushes forward the importance that all of our children need to have this language, or will perform better educationally; that's what the research shows," he said. "They'll be more competitive in the job market, have a global vision — it sets them up to be better decision-makers for our country and the world because they are going to be more informed and have the understanding of different cultures."

Existing Spanish and Armenian language programs will expand, and the Japanese program is expected to begin its first year at Verdugo Woodlands with as many as three classes, Junge said.

Six months ago, having even one Japanese class was a 50-50 proposition, said Kumiko Yoshitsugu Anicich, a parent who helped organize the Japanese program.

"When parents unite like this, anything is possible," she said in an e-mail. "It's proof that our world is really becoming international."

Of the roughly 26,660 students in Glendale Unified, about 64% are bilingual, according to district documents. Spanish, Armenian and Korean rank as the most prominent second languages, officials said.

The Armenian program's expansion into R.D. White Elementary adds a convenience for parents who might not want to commute to Jefferson Elementary School, Junge said.

District eyes will be on the Toll students, who represent the dual-language program's first class, Junge said.

"They are our pioneers," she said. "They're the first class to be at middle school."

But the parents will mostly be seeing a generational change take root, Anicich said.

"I truly hope Americans of my kids' generation can empathize more with people from different cultures," she said.

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World