Hillsborough County Publics Schools won a $1.7 million grant to offer Spanish language immersions classes at some schools.

The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) recently awarded a World Language Advancement and Readiness Grant worth $1.7 million to Hillsborough County Public Schools. The district was one of nine districts in the nation to receive this award. The DoDEA awarded a total $47 million across 41 grants as part of its 2021 program.

The grant will establish, improve and bolster world language programs targeting students in highly military-connected schools. Starting in August 2022, a Spanish language immersion program will be offered at four elementary schools: Dawson Elementary, Lanier Elementary, Summerfield Crossings Elementary and West Shore Elementary.

Hillsborough County Public Schools uses a 50/50, two-way, dual language immersion model in which students receive math, science, social studies and language arts instruction in English 50 percent of the time and the other 50 percent in Spanish to develop proficiency in both languages.

World language instruction will also be bolstered at the middle and high school level through the Bridge to Bi-Literacy project with the addition of Spanish career exploration courses at Barrington and Randall Middle Schools and even deeper, higher-level focused courses at Robinson High School.

“Students in the elementary program will be getting 13 or 14 hours a week of a much more intensive Spanish language curriculum starting at a young age,” said District Supervisor of K-12 World Languages Melissa Morgado.

The district is trying to meet the needs of the current and future job market, as the demand for bilingual employees continues to grow in this country.

“Our mission is to create a community of global learners equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge of languages and cultures to communicate effectively in a 21st-century, multilingual environment,” said Morgado.

Schools were selected based on the grant’s criteria that selected schools needed a minimum of a 10 percent student population from military families.

This new program is different from the district’s Spanish dual language immersion instruction, currently offered at Canella, Deer Park, Ruskin, Reddick, Westchase, Bellamy and Crestwood Elementary Schools.

District officials are working this year to develop the rigorous curriculum and provide training and personal development for teachers selected for the program. A summer immersion camp is also in the planning stage.

“Our goal is to create a sustainable program that can be replicated at any school in the district,” said Morgado. “By expanding our dual language program, we are expanding on the foundation of global citizenship.”

For more information about the DoDEA, visit www.dodea.edu. For more information about the district’s Dual Language Immersion Program, visit www.hillsboroughschools.org.

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MIchelle Caceres has been writing for the Osprey Observer for seventeen years. She enjoys writing human interest pieces about inspiring members of the community who are working to better our community. She lives in FishHawk Ranch with her husband and recently became an empty-nester. When not writing, Michelle is serving her church community, reading and enjoying Florida's weather.