BOE could consider charter school for dual language school

By Jeffery Whitfield

The Clayton County Board of Education could decide whether or not to grant a charter to a new dual language school that could open in the county by the 2006-2007 school year. The board is scheduled to consider granting the charter to the Unidos Dual Language Charter School at their regular meeting on Nov. 7.

“This is a first step” said Charles White, a spokesperson for the Clayton County School System.

Private groups or residents seeking to operate new schools in Georgia are required to gain approval from local board officials, according to state law.

If granted approval, the school would operate under terms of a charter established between the board as well as the Georgia Board of Education.

The board's Student Achievement and Support Services Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend that the full board consider the granting the school the charter.

“Our kids need more magnet schools, more choice in schools ... otherwise they're not going to be able to compete,” said District 9 Board member Connie Kitchens, who chairs the committee.

Slightly more than 11 percent of the county school system's student population is Hispanic, according to recent statistics from school officials.

The Unidos Dual Language Charter School would teach kindergarten through grade five. If established, the school initially would serve kindergarten and first grade students and add a grade level each subsequent year. English-speaking and Spanish-speaking students would be taught together at the school and both languages would be used for classroom instruction. The school would offer a “70-30” language model in which students would be taught Spanish 70 percent of the time and English 30 percent of the time. Starting in their second grade year students would receive half of their language instruction in Spanish and half in English.

“The curriculum would stay the same (as in other county schools), it's just in Spanish,” said Clayton County School System Superintendent Barbara Pulliam.

About 160 students could enroll in the school in its first year of operation, Pulliam said.

“I believe the school will be oversubscribed,” she said, adding that children eventually may have to be “lotteried in” to attend the school because of an increasing number of Spanish-speaking students.

The school system would provide funding for the school on a “cost per pupil” basis, Pulliam said.

She estimated that $5,000 to $6,000 is spent on each student.

The total fiscal impact of providing funding for the school will not be known until the proposal is approved, Pulliam said.

Sharon Halton, chief academic officer for the Clayton County School System, said that providing funding for the school would be “very cost effective.”

“(Funding) would be for materials and supplies related to language instruction,” she said.