Dual-language school systems are not very common in the United States. In fact, according to the Center for Applied Linguistics only 458 programs exist with only 11 of those schools located in Colorado. There is one school that goes beyond, immersing children in the culture also, Escuela Valdez.
Escuela Valdez is an early child education and elementary school that prides itself on its dual-language program and the nature of its academics. The school also has an “innovation” status, which means the school can exercise additional and appropriate freedom to control its education program without rules and regulations from the state.
Escuela Valdez enrolls 50 percent native Spanish speakers and 50 percent native English speakers into their school program. In order to help the children understand both languages, the early childhood education through some of the second grade classes use their native language 60 percent of the time and their second language 40 percent of the time, while the third through fifth grade students speak their native language for only half the day and then switch to their second language.
The dual-language program is created so that students acquire oral and text-based language skills. The goal of the program is for students to be bilingual and bi-literate. Each grade throughout the school is divided so that students have one English-speaking teacher and one Spanish-speaking teacher.
The mission statement of the school is “Escuela Valdez commits to equity through dual language immersion and culturally relevant, individualized education for all learners.”
In order to better serve the students, Escuela Valdez follows that mission statement and fine-tunes the program for each child’s specific needs. Each child gets attention to what they may be struggling with. Escuela Valdez makes it a point to support the students it has within its educational system. The school values itself on teaching and aiding children in the best way to help them succeed.
The dual language program is not something that stays the same. The school is aware of the changing demographics and the new research that is constantly changing; therefore, the school will change its program in order to better serve the community.
Escuela Valdez has not always had an easy path, though. The school was recently renovated from its 1970s structure. The structure was not easily accessible for students and parents. There were split level floors and small auditorium and cafeteria spaces, which made it difficult for students with wheelchairs to navigate.
Erin Busken, an Escuela Valdez parent, remembers the old school, “When we first started looking at Valdez, it wasn’t happy (place) in there. The building was old, with not a lot of light.”
In 2012 the school reached a major milestone when Denver voters approved bond funding to support gut renovation. The improvements made within the school helped make the building more comfortable and welcoming to the students and their families. An accessible entrance was made and an elevator helped bring the building into compliance with the Americans with Disability act. All of the renovations helped to make the school itself better for its students.
The renovations helped to make the building more inviting by opening up dark and cramped rooms to have expanded spaces, windows and solar tubes (a sort of skylight). Erin was extremely impressed by the renovations, “It was just light filling the whole stairwell. I looked out and smiled. For many people, school is the center of their community and now there’s space for people to meet and socialize.”
Escuela Valdez has had a rough path within their success, but it has never changed the focus of their job: the students. Students who enter the school leave with the skill of being bilingual. Every day Escuela Valdez is striving to achieve their goal in aiding the next generation.
For more information on Escuela Valdez, visit