By Erin Maher
About 40 parents urged the Bedford Board of Education and administrators last week to support Mount Kisco Elementary School’s Dual Language Bilingual Education (DLBE) program and refrain from making any changes to dilute the program.
Since 2015, the school has given parents and their children the option after finishing first grade of enrolling in either a single-language classroom, where they are taught in English only, or a DLBE program, where the students are taught in two languages, English and Spanish.
Parents of Mount Kisco Elementary School students became alarmed when a letter from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christopher Manno was sent home with students on Sept. 18 inviting families to participate in two focus groups to be held this week regarding the DLBE program.
According to the letter, 85 percent of Mount Kisco Elementary students have opted in to the DLBE program, leaving enough students to fill only one monolingual class. The letter stated that “the concern of some parents of children in this program has been that this may limit socialization.”
The letter also recognizes that many parents strongly support the DLBE program. It stated that the focus groups are for, “…exploring ways of meeting the program wants and needs of all children and families.”
In his report at the Sept. 27 board meeting, Manno addressed the impending focus groups, telling trustees that a study of the program began last May. Between the collected data and the reactions collected from the focus groups, Manno and school administrators will revisit the program in December to see if any alterations are needed. Manno made no concrete statements whether there would be any changes, only that it was possible.
During last week’s discussion on the program, pink banners supporting the program were unrolled by parents in the audience and held high. One read, “No limits for the bilingual program.”
Many came to the microphone to address their concerns regarding any alteration of the program.
Parent and Mount Kisco resident Gary Riley, who has children in the program, told the board that the DLBE program enticed him and his family to move to the area.
“One of the things that attracted us to Mount Kisco was for the DLBE program,” said Riley. “I’m here just to express my serious concern that the board would do anything to jeopardize a program that brings the community together.”
Former Mount Kisco Elementary School student Andrea Michelle Alvarez, who graduated Fox Lane High School in 2011, spoke about how the former ESL program was “isolating,” leaving her to feel different than the other students when she was pulled out from her classmates to learn English. She implored the board against making any changes.
“To think that others in the future will not have this opportunity is disheartening,” added Mike Fauster, the father of a first-grader at the school.
No one who spoke last week opposed the DLBE program. The Examiner reached out to Mount Kisco Elementary School Principal Inas Morsi-Hogans, who said that the findings found from the focus group would “provide one set of data for the superintendent to consider as we examine the program.” She added that with the information collected Manno will “present alternatives to the board of Education to attempt to meet all stakeholders’ needs.”
For more information on the DLBE program at Mount Kisco Elementary School, visit www.bcsdny.org/mkes.