Hilaria Bauer, director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Morgan Hill Unified School District, takes many calls from current and future residents inquiring about programs offered within MHUSD.
In December, Bauer spoke with a mother who was in the process of relocating her family and considering the Morgan Hill area. The mother wanted to know if the district offered a dual immersion program and if so, did it have room for new students?
Bauer answered “yes” to both questions before asking out of curiosity where the woman was relocating from.
“She said she was calling from Panama,” said Bauer, who was instrumental in instituting the Dual Immersion Multicultural Education (DIME) program at San Martin Gwinn Elementary School for the first time in MHUSD at the start of the 2012-13 school year. The landmark learning format, which fosters bilingualism and biliteracy by teaching 50/50 in English and Spanish, marks the ushering in of a “new era” at Gwinn.
There are currently 57 students — 30 first graders and 27 kindergartners — in the DIME program, which will add a new crop of kindergarten students next school year as the first two inaugural classes will advance a grade level.
DIME will stay based at San Martin Gwinn for the upcoming 2013-14 school year, but a location change could be in the cards in order to accommodate more students throughout the district.
“At this point, we’re going to stay in San Martin Gwinn,” said Bauer, who has been getting more and more interest in DIME from families already in the district, as well as from others outside the area.
“It has always been the district’s plan to have DIME housed on its own campus,” MHUSD Superintendent Wes Smith said. “That being said, we will continue to evaluate the best location for DIME. A more centrally located site would give our families greater access.”
At the March 26 MHUSD Board of Education meeting, San Martin Gwinn principal Kathy Yeager said the school enjoyed having DIME on its campus this year. But Yeager is unsure what the district has planned for DIME beyond 2013-14.
School Board trustee Claudia Rossi, a strong vocal supporter of DIME, confirmed that the district may want to change venues to a more centralized location in Morgan Hill, although nothing has been voted on by the board. Part of the reasoning behind a possible move is that only 10 of the students currently enrolled in DIME live in the San Martin area, whereas the majority live elsewhere in Morgan Hill.
“We need to measure where it would have the most impact,” said Rossi, who voted in favor of DIME and its implementation after the results of a community survey last spring.
Rossi said residents’ top three requests for enhancing the MHUSD educational system were adding a dual immersion program, something that had never been done in Morgan Hill, as well as more focus on math and music.
Approved by the Board in April 2012 and aptly named to reflect its model, “dual immersion” integrates English and Spanish language minority students into one class to develop high levels of language proficiency, academic achievement and an understanding of diverse cultures.
As for Bauer, she shared another call from a mother living in Fremont. The woman was targeting a home purchase in Morgan Hill, but only if there was a dual immersion program in the district for her child to attend. The woman’s child, who was in kindergarten, started out in a dual immersion program in Fremont and wanted to continue as a first grader in Morgan Hill.
“That’s something that is attractive to families who are committed to (dual immersion) program,” said Bauer, who happily informed the mother that there was an opening in San Martin Gwinn’s first-grade class next year.
The district has been providing tours of the DIME classes to meet a rising interest in dual immersion and there is enough demand for the new kindergarten class in 2013-14, according to Bauer. DIME allows for a 30-to-1 student-teacher ratio in the classroom. Each class is comprised of three groups of students: English-speaking students learning Spanish, native bilingual students and Spanish-speaking students learning English.
The district made two new hires for DIME last summer, adding Teresa Martinez as the kindergarten teacher and Dana Reginato as the first grade teacher. The district is in the process of finding a third bilingual instructor for next school year who will teach second grade.
“Staffing decisions are still being made,” Smith said. “It has been a very successful first year. Parents, teachers and students alike have been very positive about year one.”
Bauer added the longterm goal is to continue with DIME from kindergarten through eighth grade, and then decide if the program can be continued into high school.
“It’s a result of the overwhelming response and demand for the program,” she said.
Scott Forstner is a general assignment reporter who covers education and other community issues for the Morgan Hill Times. Reach him at (408) 847-7158 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org