District 65 officials propose 2-way immersion program at Bessie Rhodes School


Oreste Visentini/The Daily Northwestern

Bessie Rhodes is a K-8 magnet school located in Skokie that houses a TWI program, which centers bilingual education for its 278 students.

Catherine Henderson, Reporter

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 officials proposed the creation of a Two-Way Immersion Program at Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies on Monday, with the intention to eventually transition the entire magnet school curriculum to bilingual learning.

The TWI program is designed to increase bilingualism and cultural awareness between English speakers and Spanish speakers in class together. Stacy Beardsley, District 65’s associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction, proposed the creation of two TWI classrooms at Bessie Rhodes, beginning with next year’s kindergarten class.

“We see (TWI) as a way to strengthen the (school’s) global studies model by strengthening the opportunity to become proficient in a second language,” Beardsley said. “We have a growing population of native Spanish speakers.”

Beardsley said one of the TWI model’s tenets is having a 50-50 balance of native English speakers and native Spanish speakers. She added that District 65 has not yet reached a balance because of the demand from the Spanish-speaking population. She said integrating the program at Bessie Rhodes would contribute to reaching that balance.

District 65 school board president Suni Kartha said though the TWI program’s main purpose is to serve the Spanish-speaking population, it benefits the entire school.

“There are a lot of opportunities around having TWI at any school,” Kartha said. “The proposal to have an entire school with wall-to-wall dual-language immersion has some exciting opportunities.”

Kartha stressed that the TWI program is still in the proposal stage, and that the board needs more information before deciding if Bessie Rhodes is the best home for TWI. Beardsley said the board will vote on the TWI program at Bessie Rhodes in December.

The proposal, however, received mixed reactions from parents and school board members in recent meetings.

Beardsley said she consulted with hundreds of parents, students and teachers from the district about the TWI program, but she did not contact the Bessie Rhodes community before a Nov. 2 email notifying parents of the proposal.

Bessie Rhodes parent Kuan-Ren Su said he was concerned that the school’s administration only contacted parents four days before Beardsley presented the TWI program to the board.

“I have strong feelings that (the program) was made very much in haste,” Su said. “From what I understand, it was discussed for the past couple of years, but for them to make a decision so quickly, there was a lack of communication with parents.”

Su said he sent his children to Bessie Rhodes for its Mandarin program.

He said he fears the Mandarin program will be eliminated because administrators have said it is unclear how the school’s other language programs could be affected by the implementation of the TWI program. Su added that he does not have anything against the proposed program, but he fears Spanish-speaking students would be prioritized over his children.

“Prior to receiving the email, we’ve been very happy to go to Bessie Rhodes,” Su said. “It’s kind of heartbreaking to hear that it’s going to change.”

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