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The First Haitian Creole Immersion Program Launches In Palm Beach County

 Students at Rolling Green Elementary School pose for a photo in a slide in a play area
Courtesy of Rolling Green
/
Students at Rolling Green Elementary School

After more than two years of planning, the Palm Beach County School District is offering a Haitian Creole immersion program. It’s the first of its kind in the district.

Francisco Oaxaca, the director of multicultural and migrant education for the School District of Palm Beach County, says the large Haitian community has been asking for a bilingual program for several years.

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The new program will cater to the district's Haitian community and provides an opportunity for students who are of Haitian descent to read, write, listen, and speak fluently in two or more languages.

“We want to provide an opportunity for students who are of Haitian descent to strengthen those language skills,“ said Oaxaca. “To become more bilingual, bi-literate. And, for those who are not of that community or of that descent, we want them to also build those linguistic skills.”

Oaxaca says a pair of teachers in the program will use Haitian Creole during language arts, social studies, and science 50% of the time. And English the rest of the time.

Rolling Green Elementary School in Boynton Beach is the first school to implement the program this fall. Oaxaca wants the program to grow, like the more than 26 Spanish dual language programs in the county.

The Haitian Creole (or Kreyol) immersion program will be available at other schools starting in 2022. Oaxaca, who is in his fifth year as a director in the school district, says he’s always looking to see what's the best program for students — and the community population and demographic surrounding a particular school. That’s the driving force behind the district’s decision to launch the program.

He also learned, very early on, the value of being bilingual — it's a longstanding desire of his to understand different cultures, and to pass that passion on to students.

“My grandparents are actually from Mexico. And so I grew up in a bicultural house and having one family who was of Mexican descent and doing very traditional Mexican family activities and values,” said Oaxaca. “So for me as an educator, I want to be able to provide those opportunities in whatever fashion to all of our students and even to all of our educators.”

The Texas native says his mom's side of the family were white from west Texas. Oaxaca said building cross-cultural perspectives helps students in other areas in life, especially in the workforce.

“It’s not only good for their education but it provides a bigger global perspective of the world and who they're interacting with and what is outside of just our district here, “ he said.

“So it just seemed like the right fit.”