Renovated Libby Center gives Spanish immersion program room to grow

<p><p>The transformative power of the 2018 bond election can be seen all around the East Central neighborhood.</p></p><p><p>Liberty Park has a new library, East Sprague has a unique addition in the Hive, and now the Libby Center has room to grow.</p></p><p><p>But perhaps the biggest transformation is happening on the second floor of the Libby Center.</p></p><p><p>Inside Nancy Gonzales’ third-grade classroom on Monday morning, students were taking dictation and reading to each other – all in Spanish.</p></p><p><p>One of the most popular programs in Spokane Public Schools, the Spanish Immersion program is now in its fifth year. Steadily expanding grade by grade since 2017, it now serves students up to fourth grade.</p></p><p><p>“It speaks volumes to the community believing in bilingual education, wanting more for their children and preparing them for a global economy,” Gonzales said.</p></p><p><p>However, until now, the Libby Center was straining to accommodate the Spanish Immersion program and the Odyssey and Tessera programs for high-achieving students.</p></p><p><p>Just in time, voters approved a $495 million bond in 2018 that earmarked $6.5 million for renovation at Libby.</p></p><p><!–[photoset id=11552]–></p><p><p>The upper floor, once used by the district for professional development, is now home to the Spanish Immersion program.</p></p><p><p>“Until now we were all over the place,” Principal Kimberly Stretch said.</p></p><p><p>But thanks to the renovation, the 600 students served by the Odyssey and Tessera programs will stay on the first floor. Four more rooms on the main floor will be ready next month, said Greg Forsyth, director of capital projects for the district.</p></p><p><p>Among the rooms is a breakout space, a common feature in the district’s other projects approved in the 2018 bond.</p></p><p><p>“The breakout spaces give us a lot of connectivity, a lot of parent involvement,” Forsyth said.</p></p><p><p>The renovation puts the 10 Spanish Immersion classrooms on the same level. Even better, the new floor plan dovetails nicely with the lesson plan.</p></p><p><p>On Monday morning, Gonzales and her 25 third-graders were focused on the Spanish language, while across the hall another group was learning core subjects – math, science and social studies – also in Spanish.</p></p><p><p>After lunch the students switch classrooms.</p></p><p><p>“This allows all of the program to be together on the floor,” said Stretch, who added that the arrangement allows better “vertical collaboration” among teachers from different grades.</p></p><p><p>Stretch said the program has grown because “folks really see the value of students gaining that second language and the cultural awareness.</p></p><p><p>Demand is high. Every spring, the families of 100 kindergartners apply for the lottery, with about half gaining admission. The renovation won’t change that; however, the program will expand next year to fifth-graders.</p></p><p><p>And after that?</p></p><p><p>Forsyth said that Libby may also be included in the 2024 capital bond, though he couldn’t say whether more grades would be added.</p></p><p><p>“We’re going to add fifth grade next year – we know that,” he said.</p></p><p><p>The 93-year-old Libby Center, which served as a middle school until 1994, serves Odyssey students all the way to eighth grade.</p></p>