Escuela SMART Academy holds first classes this week

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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The lone Spanish-English bilingual school in the city has moved a few miles down the road. The newly-christened Escuela SMART Academy is now open, and this ribbon cutting was a long time coming.

Principal Jessica Molina recalls her own childhood, saying "so many of us went to school and grew up in an environment where we had to lose our Spanish to learn our English. We're not going to do that to our students."

Toledo SMART Bilingual Elementary started out with just 20 members to better serve the Spanish-speaking community. Eventually, that number grew and grew until finally, the enrollment numbers outgrew their old building, moving now to the former Westfield Elementary complex on Western Avenue.

Now billed as Escuela SMART Academy, they take particular pride in embracing both the English and Spanish languages within the same curriculum, and TPS superintendent/CEO Dr. Romules Durant says that no student will feel pressured to use one language over the other.

"From the food service worker to the bus driver," states Dr. Durant, "to the cafeteria to the hall monitor, every employee that works within the school is bilingual to help communicate."

Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz offered that Toledo was the first sister city in North America, pairing with its namesake in Spain. He points to this new school as a continued celebration of that diversity, stating this is "an important part of Toledo's DNA. It's not an act. We're not late to the party. We've always known it. We were the first to understand it."

It wasn't just the school that saw a name change. TPS showed their appreciation for Vice President Bob Vaszquez's efforts by naming the stretch of road outside the school in his honor.

For his part, Vasquez credits others for helping bring this academy into reality, proud that "we were able to move a large government bureaucracy very quickly... and we were only able to do that because of fellow board members, our staff, and Dr. Durant."

Current K-6 enrollment is about 250 students, and TPS expects more bright young minds to attend for years for come.