Newton parents are discussing the idea of bringing a bilingual school to town, after members of the school district visit Wichita's Dual Language Magnet school, Horace Mann. But how many would support it? The Newton district says support is key to whether the idea of moves forward.
In a science classroom at Horace Mann Elementary, the instruction is in Spanish. Newton parents like Maria Toribio like the concept. She's part of a growing Latino population in Newton. The 2010 Census showed Hispanics make up more than 16% of the community. That's one reason why the Newton School District sent a group to Horace Mann.
"We're in the very beginning stages of just fact finding," said Kevin Neuenswander, principal of Newton's Slate Creek Elementary.
But it's not just about Newton's growing Latino population. School Board member Barbara Bunting, who also went on the trip, tells Eyewitness News it's also about ensuring the district's English speaking students get the skills that they need to survive and thrive in a global world.
Neuenswander is familiar with the process of a bilingual school. He used to teach at Horace Mann and helped develop its current format. "They focus mainly on best practices and the language is just a tool for learning," Neuenswander said.
In Wichita each grade is made up of 50% native English speakers and 50% native Spanish speakers. Teachers present lessons in both languages.
"They are essentially immersed in both languages and they become bilingual by the time they are in about third grade," said Vanessa Martinez, Assistant Principal at Horace Mann.
A bilingual child is an idea Jennifer Duncan of Newton likes. "I've got this one who'll be coming here shortly, in a couple years," Duncan said, pointing to her little girl in the stroller. "So, maybe that'll be in effect by that time."
But Neuenswander warns it's not an easy process to build a dual language program. "It took a long time. It took a lot of forethought, a lot of planning," he said about the program development at Horace Mann.
Neuenswander and his staff are preparing to take what they learned at Horace Mann to the Newton School Board. They could make their presentation as early as next week.
The next step will be up to the board and, if it does happen, it will take several years.