District 158 devoting more resources to aid neediest students

Huntley Community School District 158 is launching a dual language program in elementary grades and devoting more resources to students with the most need, officials said.

Starting next week, 20 pre-kindergartners, 84 kindergartners and 42 first-graders will be taught in dual language classrooms at Chesak (Lake in the Hills), Leggee (Huntley) and Mackeben (Algonquin) elementary schools. Additional grades will be added each year until full implementation of the program through fifth grade.

The district's English Language Learner population is near 10 percent and the number of bilingual students is increasing, officials said.

Dual language classrooms will be split between native Spanish speakers and English-speaking students.

The district is using the 80:20 learning model Elgin Area School District U-46 has had for many years. Eighty percent of classroom instruction is in Spanish and 20 percent in English. As students move up in grades, English instruction increases by 10 percentage points per grade until both languages reach parity by third grade.

"We've had great response from parents, teachers. ... This is really exciting," said Erika Schlichter, assistant superintendent for learning and innovation. "We spent this past year as a planning year."

Rocio Del Castillo, director of curriculum for bilingual programs, is overseeing the dual language program and also is embracing a new role focusing on educational equity, inclusion and diversity.

Another area where officials are targeting resources is social-emotional learning, which will be led by Sarah Wolf, who will help develop new curriculum. Officials said both roles were restructured from existing positions.

"In some districts people might see these as separate programs. We are really seeing this as an overarching umbrella and expanded continuum of services to students and families," Schlichter said.

Huntley is investing in a few new positions related to social-emotional learning because of a growing need for mental health services.

Schlichter said the idea is to go beyond providing classroom interventions for students with social-emotional needs and being proactive through instruction and incorporating social-emotional lessons into the curriculum.

"We are leading a district review. It's a more intensified focus ... looking at a needs assessment, really integrating it into our core classrooms," Schlichter said. "This is more of a planning year. This will be for all levels across the district. There's different models out there that we are evaluating."

District 158 to launch dual language program this fall

Erika Schlichter, assistant superintendent for learning and innovation for Huntley Community School District 158, says the district's new focus on education equity, dual language programming and social-emotional learning is aimed at better serving its neediest students. Courtesy of Huntley Community School District 158
Sarah Wolf, who has a background in social work, will serve as director of social-emotional learning for Huntley Community School District 158. Courtesy of Huntley Community School District 158
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