In Southold, elementary parents ask for Spanish immersion program

A group of parents are campaigning to add a full immersion Spanish class to Southold Elementary School’s curriculum.

Southold resident Marta Thomas and Peconic resident Alyssa Prior are the co-founders of a group of nine parents campaigning for the class.

“It started as a conversation between Marta and I,” Ms. Prior said. “The end goal is to eventually have a class added but we are taking baby steps right now, so I think one thing that we’re hoping will come to fruition is an enrichment program, but the overall goal is to have a class added and we’re hoping for a full immersion class.”

In a full immersion program, one class per day would be taught completely in Spanish. The enrichment program would offer various Spanish-language electives in STEM, fine arts, music, reading and more.

Ms. Thomas and Ms. Prior encourage anyone wanting to support their efforts to reach out to the Board of Education, the school principal or superintendent and let the administration know they support this effort. 

According to Ms. Thomas, the group wants the full immersion class, which would be available to all students, added to the curriculum, so it’s not just an elective under the enrichment program.

The group is campaigning for the class by showing up to Southold school board meetings. They have sent out a survey to “just about everybody we knew,” Ms. Prior said, to gauge community interest, receiving over 95 anonymous responses.

The survey was distributed through email and a private Facebook group for Southold Elementary School parents. 

“My child tries to learn Spanish using Duolingo, but she would prefer a real class,” said one response.

“My children both love learning Spanish and often try to speak on their own. I am always looking up words for them. My second-grader has told me that she has been asking her Spanish-speaking friends to teach her because she wants to become better friends with them. I am wholeheartedly in support of this mission,” said another.

“I speak another language, and my children are very curious about learning it as well as about the country itself. Learning a second (and third, etc.) language at an early age is easier, and will stay with that child the rest of their lives,” a third response said.

The group met with elementary school principal Ellen Waldron-O’Neill in December, who advised them to speak before the school board. The group’s first meeting with the board was in January.

Superintendent Dr. Anthony Mauro said the district is listening to parents’ and students’ requests.

“A number of parents have attended BOE meetings to express their desire for Southold to add Spanish to our elementary day,” Mr. Mauro said in an emailed statement to The Suffolk Times. “We have met and listened to our parents and their students. We also share information about the varied programs existing in local elementary schools and parent feedback.”

The group is hoping to have an enrichment program added by next school year as a trial for a full immersion class, Ms. Prior said.

“I think the focus of this is going to be how many kids sign up, how the kids respond to it, how the parents feel about it and then hoping to go from there,” Ms. Prior said.

“We’re glad to see a change might happen although we feel a curriculum change would be the best way,” Ms. Thomas said.

The group is also searching for grants to try and get this class added.

“We would do anything to make this move faster and go forward,” Ms. Prior said.