Bedford School Officials Weigh Options for Mt. Kisco Bilingual Program

By Erin Maher

Bedford Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christopher Manno presented the Board of Education Wednesday night with two proposals toward resolving issues related to the Dual Language Bilingual Education program (DLBE) at Mount Kisco Elementary School.

Manno’s first alternative would allow all children enrolled at the school to be part of the DLBE program, which teaches children in both English and Spanish. If families wanted to have their child opt out of the program they would be allowed to attend West Patent Elementary School. Students who would choose West Patent would receive door-to-door busing.

The option would also be available to as many as 15 students who are zoned for the district’s other elementary schools based on a lottery system should requests exceed the number of slots. Children zoned for Mount Kisco Elementary School would have first choice.

The school of choice option would either be cost neutral or come at a modest cost, Manno said.

The second alternative would see the district continue the current program of allowing Mount Kisco Elementary School families to decide whether their children enroll in the DLBE program or be included in the traditional single-language classroom. There would be enhanced efforts to provide inclusive experiences for children.

Since 2015, the school has given parents the choice of the single-language or bilingual option upon their child finishing first grade. Currently, 85 percent of Mount Kisco Elementary School students are enrolled in the program. Students can opt out at any time.

“I request and implore to be role models for our children, for our young adults in how we have a dialogue on important and ideas and issues,” Manno said when discussing the issue at the Nov. 15 board meeting.

Concerns arose in September when the district sent out letters that informed parents of upcoming focus groups to discuss the program’s future. The letter stated that there was parental concern that the program was limiting socialization.

Focus groups were held in October. Parents have flooded Board of Education meetings to vigorously support the program.

Before a meeting room packed with parents Wednesday night, reaction regarding the two proposals was mixed. Resident Dana King of Bedford Hills, who has a daughter enrolled in the traditional classroom setting at Mount Kisco Elementary School, said if the school of choice option isn’t passed, her family would be forced to from the district.

“All I’m asking for is that my children have the same equal classroom setting as do other children around the county,” King remarked.

But Mount Kisco resident Bonnie McLeod said the school of choice option could create problems for students and the district.

“You’re making the segregation worse, it really scares me,” McLeod said. “It brings to mind the movie ‘The Hunger Games.’”

Glen Liebeck, who currently has a son enrolled in the DLBE program, questioned whether trustees had the expertise to make an informed decision.

“This is an instructional decision, and they simply do not have the skills and the backgrounds to make this decision,” Liebeck said.

Board members will deliberate on the alternatives presented by Dr. Manno and discuss the issue at the board’s Dec. 13 work session. On Dec. 20, the board could make a decision.

For more information on the proposed alternatives, visit www.bcsdny.org, click on district departments, go to the superintendent’s page, then proceed to the links under the header for the MKES Program Study 2017.

 

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