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Parkview Elementary

Parents and students gather Dec. 13 outside Parkview Elementary School in Valparaiso to protest the district's announcement that the school's Dual Language Immersion Pilot Program is being canceled at the end of the academic year.

VALPARAISO — Valparaiso Community Schools is reevaluating its decision to end its popular Dual Language Immersion program at Parkview Elementary School.

School leaders sent a letter to Parkview parents last week outlining the district's process for reconsideration after more than a hundred parents protested the administration's decision in an organized rally and at a school board meeting.

A Jan. 8 letter sent from VCS Director of Elementary Education Brandie Muha and new Parkview Principal Calli Dado shared that a school leadership team and dual language experts will work together to review concerns and school data, and will then offer a district Bilingual Advisory committee the chance to weigh in.

"I'm glad that they have a process in place," said Rebecca Hoyle, the mother of a Parkview third grader. "I question why weren't these steps following in the first place. I would have loved if these steps were followed before we lost our principal."

VCS administrators notified parents in a letter last month that VCS would discontinue the DLI program at the end of the school year.

In the same letter, officials informed parents that the school's principal, Anne Wodetzki, had resigned, and said in statements to the media that Wodetzki had been included in the decision to end the DLI program.

Now, district leaders say they are open to a review that could result in "the extension, modification, or discontinuation of the program."

The new letter to parents outlines that a survey will be sent to all Parkview families to collect input on the program. It doesn't give a specific timeline for study of the program, but district leaders say they hope to have a status update this spring.

"The expectation was that the principal was working with building stakeholders over the course of the last year and a half on evaluation and improving the DLI pilot program to address the known concerns of student growth and achievement, staffing sustainability, and effects on neighborhood schools," VCS spokeswoman Allison Hadley said in a statement. "The community reaction has led us to conclude that this expectation had not been sufficiently met. Therefore, the best decision for students and staff is to reengage in the evaluation process."

The former Parkview principal disputed the district's characterization that she supported ending dual language immersion, a program she had overseen and advocated for from its beginning in 2015.

"I have never been in support of ending the program. I have always wanted the program to continue and I fought hard for the program to continue," Wodetzki told The Times on Monday, expressing disappointment in the division now created in the Parkview community. "This program was designed for kids to celebrate diversity and difference and to learn from each other."

The Bilingual Advisory committee expected to be brought into the evaluation process was formed at the outset of Parkview's DLI program.

It includes teachers, parents, community members and field experts with experience in every level of education from elementary school to university studies, according to the Parkview school website.

Four new committee members will be added, representing parents on either side of the debate of whether to continue the program. Selection of these representatives is "ongoing," Hadley said.

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Dado, who was selected last month to replace Wodetzki, will be involved in the review process, Hadley said. Dado has worked in Valparaiso Community School for about a decade, Hadley said, doing her student teaching at Parkview Elementary and serving most recently as principal of Central Elementary School last school year. 

"I'm hopeful this is a step toward retaining foreign language in our elementary," said Meredith Mohlke, a Parkview parent who said she was contacted to join the committee. "I wonder still what parameters were used to originally cancel the program and I wonder how this review will bring to light any change in the decision."

Data specific to Parkview student performance on state standardized exams as compared to the rest of the district were posted to the school website last week.

The VCS school board will meet at 6 p.m. Jan. 23 at Cooks Corners Elementary School. An agenda for the meeting has not yet been posted.

Read the Valparaiso Community Schools' January update:

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Education Reporter

Carley Lanich covers education in Lake County and throughout the Region. She comes to Northwest Indiana from Indianapolis and is an IU-Bloomington grad.