February 23, 2018


Riverview School opened at the start of this school year as a new PreK-8 dual language, project-based learning school with 376 students. As the district’s first dual language school, Riverview provides a unique bilingual learning opportunity for students.

The Center for Applied Linguistics defines dual language as “any program that provides literacy and content instruction to all students through two languages,” which can take a lot of different forms. Riverview is using a 50:50 model where all students spend half their time receiving English instruction and half their time receiving Spanish instruction. And unlike other language programs, Riverview’s program focuses on real-world learning.

“We’re not teaching kids rote memorization of language. We’re teaching kids how to utilize language to access learning. And we’re doing that through authentic learning opportunities,” Riverview principal Adam Volek explained.

In Riverview’s program, students are heterogeneously placed in classes to capitalize on language expertise. “Every kid is a language expert for their native language. By mixing kids up, you make sure there are experts in every class who can help their peers,” Volek said.  

For the first year, the school only implemented the dual language program for students in the early childhood program through second grade.

“All of our older students are being supported with Spanish instruction this year,” Volek explains. “We will expand into third grade next year and add a grade each year as those students transition.”

Though students have only been exposed to a semester of the dual language learning models, staff members are already seeing results.

“It has been incredible to watch the growth of both native English and Spanish speakers develop reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills in both languages,” said Riverview kindergarten teacher Courtney Rangel.

The growth has been especially profound because the program is new and Spanish instruction was totally new to half of the students.

“Many students were monolingual at the beginning of the year and are now progressing in two languages,” Volek said.

Parents are also noticing the student growth. Alexandra Woolley, the mother of a Riverview kindergartner, is very pleased with the program.

“We feel lucky to give our children the opportunity to learn Spanish starting in kindergarten. Our daughter is starting to read in Spanish and even taught her three-year-old brother to count in Spanish. It has been amazing to watch the rapid pace that she is picking up a new language,” Woolley said.

There was a lot of parent and community involvement throughout the school design process. The input from staff, students, and community members really shaped the school.

“When our family learned there was a new school being built in our community, we were excited, and then even more excited to learn it was going to be a dual language program,” Woolley said. “So far our hopes for the school have come true. We have been very happy with her kindergarten experience.”


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