By Laura Hayes, Contributing Writer
HUDSON – There’s still an opportunity for future Hudson Public Schools’ kindergarteners to join the new Dual Language Program where students will spend half the day speaking Portuguese and the other half speaking English.
The district intended to launch the dual language program last fall, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, the launch became difficult for personnel reasons and the challenge of starting the program virtually, said Superintendent Marco Rodrigues.
Now the program will be kicking off next year at Camela A. Farley Elementary School.
“In a way it was good because we developed more curriculum. … We’re more complete now, per se. It gave us a buffer, too, to get even stronger to get this rolled out,” Rodrigues said.
Farley is rallying around the program, Rodrigues said.
Bathroom signs are in English and Portuguese. Rodrigues hopes regular staff and students will learn phrases like “good morning.”
How did this happen?
Prior to coming to Hudson, Rodrigues worked at Worcester Public Schools, which has Spanish-English dual language programs at five of its schools.
As he was transitioning to Hudson, Rodrigues learned that there’s a strong Portuguese community made up of families immigrating from Portugal and Brazil. Plus, the number of Portuguese-speaking English Learner students is growing, he said.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the number of English Learners in Hudson has grown over the past three years. Of the 2,566 students in the district, 11.4 percent are English Learners. In comparison, in 2018, 9.3 percent of the 2,633 Hudson students were English Learners.
“It became evident that we could benefit from such a program because a dual language program is such a strength to students — just the thinking that when you get to fifth, sixth grade you are fluent in both languages. It’s an amazing thing,” Rodrigues said.
How will the program work?
Students will be divided into two classrooms of 20.
Hudson plans to use a 50/50 model, which means that the students will spend half of their day in Portuguese and half in English.
Two teachers — one of which is Portuguese-speaking and only teaches in Portuguese and the other English-speaking — will rotate between the two classes. There will also be a Portuguese-speaking paraprofessional who will support the students in the program.
The students will attend their specials like art and physical education like their peers.
“Over time, we want to see if we can increase those specials to also be delivered by a bilingual person,” Rodrigues said.
He called that a “lofty goal,” adding that it may be possible through attrition over time.
Hudson plans to grow the program through middle school. By the time the students reach high school, the students will be bilingual and may take advanced courses, such as A.P. Portuguese, or dual-enroll in college courses. High school students can also test to receive the Seal of Biliteracy.
“There will be a menu of options for those students to continue that effort,” Rodrigues said.
How to enroll
Enrollment into the program is ongoing. Hudson began its kindergarten registration in March, and during those registrations, the district goes into detail of the program.
Because the district wants a balance of native Portuguese and English-speaking students, there may be a lottery if more students enroll than available spaces.
Rodrigues said there’s an expectation that students will remain in the program.
“I say this to parents all the time — If you’re on the fence, move beyond that thinking because it’s a fantastic opportunity. In my mind, everyone should jump at it because to me it’s an opportunity of a lifetime for that child,” Rodrigues said.