Poised to meet the demands of an increasingly competitive global economy and growing Arab-American population, the Houston Independent School District is proposing the creation of its first-ever Arabic Language Immersion Magnet School.
If approved by the HISD Board of Education, the proposed dual language immersion school would open its doors in the fall of 2015, with two pre-kindergarten and two kindergarten classes. A new grade level would be added each year as the students progress through the fifth grade.
Trustees are scheduled to vote on the proposal next week during their regular monthly board meeting at 5 p.m. on Nov. 13 in the Board Auditorium of the Hattie Mae White Educational Service Center, 4400 W. 18th Street.
“Houston is one of the world’s leading energy capitals, and it has strong economic ties to the Middle East,” said HISD Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier. “Those factors combine to create a significant demand in our city for Arabic language fluency — and we want to meet that demand.”
In HISD, Arabic is the second-most common foreign language spoken at home. A cross-functional team tasked with studying the district’s language data determined the school would focus on Modern Standard Arabic.
Research shows that students who learn new languages reap long-term academic and social benefits. Studying a foreign language improves students’ analytical skills and enhances their memory and creativity. It also helps students gain a more profound understanding of their own culture and develop a more positive attitude toward other cultures. Speaking more than one language also make students more valuable in the workforce.
The Arabic Language Immersion Magnet School would be located at 812 W. 28th Street, a site that formerly housed Holden Elementary School and the Energy Institute High School. Some renovation work — such as upgrades to lighting, technology, restrooms and the heating and cooling system — would be required.
HISD has a track record for establishing highly successful dual language immersion schools. In addition to two full-campus Spanish language schools, the district also offers a Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet School, which opened at full capacity in 2012. By its second year, it had four applicants for every available spot.