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Local News

Fairmont School District 89 mulling bilingual parent program

District officials seek to give parents English instruction

LOCKPORT — Fairmont School District 89 officials are considering the creation of a program to offer English instruction for Spanish-speaking parents of students.

Superintendent Sonya Whitaker reported Wednesday to the Board of Education about the possibility of offering, free of charge, English instruction through Joliet Junior College. The district would need at least 20 bilingual parents to commit to participating in the program in order to run it, she said.

Four years ago the issue of a bilingual parent program came up and District 89 officials reached out to JJC, but couldn’t get 20 parents to commit, she said. 

“Well over 100 parents [in the district] speak Spanish only or are limited English speaking, and I must admit I do find it difficult to stomach the idea we aren’t able to get 20,” Whitaker said. “They’re offering a comprehensive program at JJC. … Maybe it is a recruiting effort that needs to be done.”

Whitaker and board members discussed the idea of using a parent literacy event Dec. 10 as a time to recruit parents for the program.

"I'm thinking that we have at least 200 parents show up on that night. Surely we can get 20 parents to sign up," Whitaker said.

Board member Joseph Dalpiaz recommended having parents promote the program as well. He said the idea behind the program is to help parents who speak another language help their child. 

“What we want to do is help you help your child to succeed in our school and one of the ways you can do that is learn some English; not necessarily just learn English but for the purpose of being a better parent for your child in school,” Dalpiaz said.

Whitaker said parents from the district bilingual parent committee can help promote it. 

According to the Illinois Report Card, District 89's student population is predominately black at 53 percent, but Hispanic students are the second-largest population in the district, at 35 percent.

In district officials’ research on a bilingual parent program, Whitaker said there was no other Lockport school district that had one. Outside of the city, they learned Plainfield School District 202 and Valley View School District 365U had such programs with the support of JJC.

Whitaker said one of the issues with those districts' bilingual parent programs was that people were not participating in them consistently. 

Besides needing 20 parents to participate in District 89’s version, Whitaker said they would also need volunteers from the community or district staff to participate in two-day training sessions. 

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