Birdwell Elementary School will soon become Tyler ISD’s K-8 Dual Language Spanish Immersion School.
The elementary school, which currently hosts a K-5 program Spanish immersion program, will begin to expand toward middle school next school year with the addition of a sixth grade class.
Principal Bethany Moody told the Tyler ISD Board of Trustees that a survey of parents, which all but three families responded to, indicated that more than 90 percent of parents responded favorably to the idea of extending the program into middle school years.
The discussion, which took place at Thursday’s monthly board meeting, did not require a vote and is part of the district’s Pathfinder Program that was implemented to make changes to middle school programming for the first time since the 1970s.
Moody said they expect about two classes of sixth graders going into the 2020-21 school year, based on current class sizes, but would allow for students from other Tyler ISD schools to apply if they showed sufficient proficiency. The move will make Birdwell Tyler ISD’s second K-8 specialty school, along with Caldwell Arts Academy.
Benefits of the program include allowing students to take high school level Spanish 2 as early as sixth grade, and give students the opportunity to earn the state’s “Seal of Biliteracy” on their transcript.
The program currently begins in Kindergarten with students taught to read in Spanish, before transitioning to a 50/50 Spanish-English model in second grade. In grades 6-8 students will have social studies in Spanish, as well as a Spanish Language Arts course. They’ll have electives that could include language enrichment, Spanish 2 and Spanish 3.
Moody said students would be eligible to participate in sports extracurriculars at their attendance zoned middle school, and they are looking at ways to integrates arts and music in those grades.
The board will approve new attendance zones at a future meeting for the parents who do not want to continue the program into middle school. Moody said only two families had responded as “no” so far. The new attendance zone would likely split Birdwell’s zone between Peete and Bell Elementary Schools.
For the 2020-21 school year K-3 monolingual students would move to the new attendance zones, fourth and fifth grade students could be grandfathered to Birdwell and the sixth grade class would be added. The school would add seventh grade in the 2021-22 school year and eighth grade in the 2022-23 school year.
The school also will keep its Pre-K classrooms.
Board member Rev. Fritz Hager Jr. said one of his sons is in the program, and it has been a phenomenal opportunity for his family.
In Other Business
The board accepted a donation of $60,758 for an authentic ceramics lab at Caldwell Arts Academy from the Tyler ISD Foundation. The foundation applied for the funds through a Women’s Fund of Smith County grant.
The board also reviewed Career and Technology Education certification updates. In 2016 the board set the district’s goal for the 2019-20 school year at 64 certifications. In just the fall 2019 semester 428 Tyler ISD students earned 178 Industry-Based Texas Education Agency approved certifications, 148 federal Perkins Certifications and 562 Industry-Recognized Certifications to meet local needs.
Elementary Student of the Month — Bailey Balliet, a fifth grade student at Owens Elementary School
Secondary Student of the Month — Jernai Mosley, a tenth grade student at Early College High School.
Teacher of the Month — Andy Haas, a teacher at Early College High School.
The board also recognized Janessa Ward, a junior at John Tyler High School and Ty Stevens, a senior at Robert E. Lee High School, for receiving All State Band honors and performing at the TMEA Convention in San Antonio.