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New Dual Language Program Will Make Bed-Stuy School a 'Pacesetter': Parents

By Camille Bautista | May 6, 2016 5:28pm | Updated on May 9, 2016 8:50am
 Anaya Gravesande, a kindergartener at Brighter Choice Community School, hopes to join the new dual language program this coming academic year.
Anaya Gravesande, a kindergartener at Brighter Choice Community School, hopes to join the new dual language program this coming academic year.
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DNAinfo/Camille Bautista

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — As new bilingual classes are set to begin this year in one Brooklyn district, parents are eager for the dual language program that they say will allow Brighter Choice Community School to become a “pacesetter” for Bedford-Stuyvesant.

The elementary school at 280 Hart St. near Marcus Garvey Boulevard will launch a Spanish and English dual language program for kindergarten and first-grade students this September, according to the city’s Department of Education.

“I think this is the school that is going to set the pace for other schools,” said PTA President Victor Iroh.

“Parents are very excited about the program, they want to see it expand to other grades, everyone wants their children to be a part of it.”

Currently, Bed-Stuy’s School District 16 is without a dual language program, according to DOE records, but offers other language enrichment resources and curriculum including English as a New Language instructional programs, the agency said.

Talks for the program had been in the works for years, said principal Fabayo McIntosh-Gordon, but up until this year there weren’t enough students for a possible class, according to the DOE.

The dual language program comes with another big change to the school, as it doubles it student population to an expected 370 students through a merger with Young Scholars’ Academy for Discovery and Exploration, the DOE said.

The one pre-K and one first-grade class will operate on a “Two-Way, 50/50” model, McIntosh-Gordon said, meaning students will learn every subject in both languages, alternating between English and Spanish each day.

On Mondays, kids could have math, science, social studies and other subjects all in English, and on Tuesday lessons would continue for those same classes, but in Spanish.

One teacher will lead in both languages and half the students will be native Spanish speakers. The other half will be native English speakers, the principal said.

Classrooms will be color-coded with each side of the room housing materials in a specific language.

Around 150 families have already applied for the kindergarten and first-grade slots, according to McIntosh-Gordon, and interviews to fill the spots have begun.

READ MORE: What You Need to Know Before Sending Your Child to a Dual Language Program

As the children advance to third through fifth grades, classes will be taught with a teacher for each language and separate English and Spanish classrooms, the DOE said.

“This is amazing to me,” said McIntosh-Gordon, who founded Brighter Choice in 2008.  “I’m from Bedford-Stuyvesant, I went to school in District 16, I started teaching in District 16, I am these children.

“So to see this school grow to not only inspire families and inspire children to do great things, to now be able to offer them this enrichment model is amazing.”

The school already provides a Bilingual Birdies program from pre-K through second grade, the principal said, where Spanish is taught through music and movement.

Brighter Choice previously offered Spanish for general education students, and is looking to implement a musical theater class this year that will teach the language interactively. The school is still seeking a teacher for the course.

“We’re kind of answering all of the needs: People want their children to be culturally sensitive, people want their children to understand the ways of the world,” McIntosh-Gordon said.

“And Bedford Stuyvesant is changing so people want their children to be able to learn and help one another.”

The dual language program will help students become more confident, parents said.

For Brighter Choice kindergartener Anaya Gravesande, who said she already knows how to count in Spanish, being part of the program would help her “learn different words.”

“You’re not just focusing on one language, one program, or one position, it opens you up to a whole world,” said father Tyrone Gravesande. “It’s another way of giving them more opportunities.”

The family currently has two children in the school and plan to enroll their other daughter in Brighter Choice’s pre-K this coming academic year, hoping that she and older sister Anaya will be able to practice Spanish with each other.

“I’m looking forward to what this will do to increase the programming that we already have here. I hope it grows,” McIntosh-Gordon said.

“Maybe the whole school will turn into a dual language school. How fabulous would that be?”