DEL VALLE, Texas (KXAN) — The Del Valle Independent School District is saying “Bienvenidos” — thus welcoming a large amount of families who will now have access to its dual-language program.
This will start at the pre-K level. It was originally only funded for a select group of low-income students through the state of Texas.
Now, with advocacy from the City of Austin, District 2 council member Vanessa Fuentes and others, Austin and Travis County have invested $1.5 million of federal stimulus money to fund the program for all students who are interested.
The City of Austin is putting up $750,000, with Travis County matching that amount. It will help Del Valle ISD hire more teachers and teacher assistants who are certified.
“So, she started in August, and she just loves it so much,” Brittany Clay, a Del Valle ISD mom, said.
Clay’s 4-year-old is one of the first new Dell Valle ISD students in the program thanks to local government funding.
“She’s coming home, she’s singing to herself in Spanish. She’s like, ‘You don’t know Spanish, I know Spanish,’ and I’m like, ‘Look, I am trying, I am going to get there,'” Clay said with a chuckle.
Clay’s family was paying more than $2,000 a month for child care for two children. This new opportunity takes a load off, and it also enriches her daughter’s life.
“She’s able to connect with her friends in a really special way,” Clay said.
Del Valle ISD said half of its 500 pre-k students are enrolled in the dual-language program, including 55 new families qualifying with the expansion.
“We actually have an early literacy measuring tool, and we know from the past years that those students who participate in this have higher kindergarten readiness scores,” Dell Valle ISD Superintendent Dr. Annette Tielle said.
Fuentes was a big advocate in using city funding for this.
“It shows to our community that we matter and access to child care and early childhood education is such an important part,” Fuentes said. “This is personal for me.”
A product of an early childhood dual-language program herself, she feels it’s necessary for bridging the gap of affordable child care in underserved areas.
Enrollment will be open starting in January for fall 2022. Eligible students must go to a school where at least 80% of families qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Other major districts in the Austin area have similar programs, though not all of them are free for families.
According to the City of Austin, there will be between five and nine new bilingual pre-K classrooms not to exceed 20 students per class.