JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — National School Choice Week runs from Jan. 22 through Jan. 28 and it’s meant to empower parents to discover the K-12 education options available for their children. But for Hispanic families, a language barrier can cut off access to important information.
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IDEAS Public Charter Schools in Duval County are changing that.
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“Their mission is to get 100-percent of their students to go to and through college,” Amy Castellanos, a 6th grade teacher at IDEAS Public Charter School River Bluff campus, said.
Castellanos devotes time to guide families and help students like 11-year-old Justin Proano. She’s currently teaching him English.
“And we give them the time they deserve to learn the language,” Proano emphasized.
“Here we practice every week,” she said, in Spanish.
He and his mother moved here from Ecuador.
“When I came here, it was hard because everyone spoke English and I didn’t speak much,” he explained. “But I’m getting used to it now.”
Thanks to the one-on-one instruction the school offers, he’s grown a whole year in reading, so his mom feels she made the right choice.
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“Coming here was a radical change,” mother Jeniffer Estrada shared, in Spanish, as she reflected on their journey. “But with our efforts, and thanks to tutoring from the teachers, there has been such a big improvement.”
“I’ve improved a lot!” Proano said with a smile.
“It’s just amazing the growth that he’s made,” Castellanos emphasized.
Statistics show, choices matter to parents now more than before.
National School Choice Awareness conducted a Spanish survey as part of its Conoce tus Opciones program, which found more than 60% of Latino parents have considered switching their children to a different school in the last year. Those numbers are up from 2022.
So Castellanos wants to encourage parents to explore options.
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“[Parents] should pick [a school] that they feel comfortable with and that they know they’re going to get that support that they need,” she recommended, emphasizing, that, “the kids, the community and the state as a whole will benefit and will see the success.