State awards Amherst, Holyoke $336K for dual-language programs

  • Joseph Metcalf Elementary School fourth grade teacher Eliza Maugh-Pugh leads a geography lesson in Spanish for four of her students at the exclusively dual language school in Holyoke on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/6/2020 2:47:50 PM
Modified: 1/6/2020 2:47:17 PM

AMHERST — A dual-language program for close to 40 kindergartners that started at Fort River School last fall will be able to expand later this year with continued support from the state.

Amherst public schools, in partnership with Holyoke public schools, which started a dual-language program in 2014 at the Joseph Metcalf Elementary School, announced last week that they have been awarded grants totaling $335,871 from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The two districts received $300,000 from the state in January 2019 for their bilingual education programs.

For Amherst, a $95,871 Gateway City Grant will be used during both the school year and over the summer to grow the Caminantes program, in which students, about equally divided between primary Spanish speakers and primary English speakers, spend half the day learning subjects in English and the other half studying in Spanish.

The aim of the grant is to increase the district’s qualified bilingual education teachers, encourage and support bilingual students and their families and build systems to implement effective bilingual education programs.

The specific initiatives will include providing tuition so more instructors can participate in a bilingual education program at the University of Massachusetts, providing professional development and staff collaboration time for curriculum work, purchasing materials for Caminantes, providing family outreach, and potentially implementing a small Spanish summer program in the district.

Amherst School Superintendent Michael Morris said the first months of Caminantes have been successful due to the planning and training done through a previous grant.

“We are grateful for their continued support as we work diligently to ensure that the program will remain successful as it expands to an additional grade level each year,” Morris said.

Amherst and Holyoke have been jointly awarded $90,000 to use during the school year and summer 2020 to maintain each district’s alternative bilingual English language education program for English language learners.

Holyoke will also receive $150,000 for its district to support bilingual instruction, both at the Joseph Metcalf Elementary School, a preschool-through-grade 5 school where all grades are taught bilingually in English and Spanish, and the optional track families can choose at E.N. White Elementary School.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at
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