New Spanish language immersion charter school gets OK

Just a year after she was selected by The Mind Trust as an education entrepreneur fellow to develop a dual-language school, Mariama Carson got the go-ahead to launch today.

The Indianapolis Charter School Board unanimously approved Carson, a former Pike Township principal and wife of U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indianapolis, to launch a 220-student charter school in Lafayette Square on the city’s Northwest side in 2016.

The School will be called Global Prep and eventually serve roughly equal numbers of native English and Spanish speakers in grades K to 8. It will start with grades K to 2.

Carson said she will begin aggressive recruiting, which might include inviting teachers from Puerto Rico to Indianapolis, to seek teachers who are bilingual.

“The quality of the teachers in front of the kids is paramount importance,” she said. “That’s a big hurdle.”

Carson’s idea was featured in Chalkbeat’s recent series about English language learning, Lost in Translation, in a story from its reporting partner, WFYI Publc Media. She said innovative schools like Global Prep are needed to serve Indianapolis’ fast-growing Hispanic community.

The city has a few dual-language immersion programs, in which students speak in the language they are learning while taking their other subjects, including the private International School on the North side and Lawrence Township’s Forest Glen Elementary School. Forest Glen has followed a foreign language immersion program for 20 years.

Alyssa Luna, an education specialist at the Hispanic-focused social service agency La Plaza, hailed Carson’s approach as the most effective way for children to learn a second language.

“Bilingual education not only increases Spanish comprehension, but is a community-building bridge for those who grow up with Spanish in the home,” she said.

Other new charter schools approved tonight include:

  • Herron High School’s second campus. The A-rated charter school with more than 300 on its waiting list is looking to open a second location in 2017. The new school would also be modeled after Herron’s classical education program and serve about 575 students in grades 9 to 12. Herron has about 750 students in those grades. The school has targeted the Heslar Naval Armory as its first-choice location for the new Herron, but it must raise an estimated $4.5 million for renovations.
  • Avondale Meadows Middle School. The high-scoring Avondale Meadows charter school, which serves elementary school grades, won approval to open a middle school. The new school will start with sixth graders in 2016 and eventually serve 330 students in grades 6 to 8.