Delaware Academy to be phased out, bilingual primary school phased in

It'll be the first of its kind in Syracuse: a bilingual immersion elementary school offering instruction in both English and Spanish.

After years of poor performance and low test scores, the state ordered a complete overhaul of the Delaware Academy. In response, Syracuse school district officials have developed a plan with an intense focus on overcoming language barriers at the school.

"When you look at the Delaware Academy, almost half of the students are Hispanic," said Laura Kelley, the district's Chief Academic Officer. "It makes sense for us to be providing not just instruction in Spanish, but also to follow what we're supposed to be doing in terms of giving them their bilingual programing."

Starting in the Fall, the new Delaware Primary School will open with four kindergarten classrooms and operate within the same building as the Delaware Academy. The schools will have separate principles and teaching staff. Kindergarten classrooms will be staffed with bilingual teachers and classrooms will be grouped by a child's first language.

Kindergarteners at the Delaware Primary School will receive more than 60-percent of instruction each day in their native language and more than an hour of instruction in a second language, either English or Spanish.

"There is research study after research study that supports this kind of bilingual service program to students for them to be academically and linguistically successful," said Kelley. "Not only are [students] successful in Spanish, they're also successful in English and ultimately being bilingual is always a plus."

Kindergarteners slated to enter the Delaware Academy will be automatically enrolled in the Delaware Primary School. Parents who wish to enroll their children in the bilingual emersion school will have the opportunity to apply and will be accepted based on availability within the school.

Pending state approval, the Delaware Primary School will welcome its first class of kindergarteners for the 2014-15 school year, while the Delaware Academy operates as usual for grades one through five. Each year the Delaware Primary School will expand to the next grade level as the Academy contracts and all of the Delaware Academy's students have moved on to middle school.

The district will submit their plan for the new school by July 15. Ultimately, the future of Delaware and its curriculum model will depend on state feedback.

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