The first public Arabic language immersion school in the country opened its doors Monday to 132 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students who will learn Arabic along with English. The new Arabic Immersion Magnet School (AIMS) is among 283 HISD campuses that welcomed back nearly 215,000 students from across the district. In HISD, Arabic is the second most common foreign language spoken at home.
“There are children from 40 different Houston-area zip codes here,” said HISD Superintendent Terry Grier said. “The Arabic school is a very demographically diverse school, with about 30 percent Hispanic, 30 percent Anglo, and 30 percent African American. This year is especially exciting, as we continue to set our sights on making sure our students have access to a truly global education.”
AIMS Principal Kate Adams joined Grier, HISD Deputy Superintendent and Chief Financial Officer Ken Huewitt, and Chief Academic Officer Andrew Houlihan in welcoming AIMS students and staff back to school.
“We have been planning for months, and today exceeded my expectations,” said Adams. “Most families came into the school and joined us at morning assembly. From day one, we started off in both English and Arabic, beginning with a welcome song before everyone went to their new classrooms. It’s going to be a great year.”
Parent Kamara Hall was very happy to have her son enrolled at AIMS. “Learning Arabic is something that not everyone is going to do, so it’s a great opportunity for him,” she said. “He’s also learning Spanish. I want my son to be the best he can be, so I brought him to the best school.”
Learning a second language is a key component of a global education, and AIMs significantly expands HISD’s dual-language opportunities. The district offers a similar program at the Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet School and has nearly doubled the size of the Spanish dual language program, expanding it from 31 to 52 campuses this year.
In other news, HISD is strengthening its college readiness efforts by deploying 28 new college success advisors and 10 college success managers to campuses across the district and doubling the size of the successful EMERGE program, which aims to identify low-income, high potential students and help them gain admission to and graduate from Tier 1 and Ivy League colleges and universities.
This year also marks the final implementation of HISD’s PowerUp one-to-one laptop initiative. More than 40,000 students at 32 Phase 1 and 2 high schools will have their devices reissued to them as they return to school this fall. About 8,000 students at the 15 Phase 3 high schools will receive their laptops later in the school year.