Press Release

Helios Education Foundation Awards $1.6 Million To Fund Dual Language Learning in 11 Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Classrooms In OCPS
Classroom curriculum delivered in both English and Spanish

September 27, 2016 

Contact:  Grace Maseda, 813-449-6307                                                  

(Orlando, FL) – Helios Education Foundation announced today a $1.6 million investment awarded to Orlando Repertory Theatre (The REP), in partnership with Orange County Public Schools and Arizona State University, to provide dual language learning opportunities to Voluntary Pre-K students in 11 Orlando-area classrooms. Students in these classrooms will receive instruction 50 percent of the time in English and 50 percent of the time in Spanish, culminating in dual language comprehension and fluency.

“Our goal is to explore how dual language learning in English and Spanish helps children develop the literacy and language skills they need to succeed,” said Dr. Karen Ortiz, Vice President and Program Director, Early Grade Success at Helios. “Preschool children will be taught in both languages, and we’ll be conducting research to determine how this dual language curriculum impacts student achievement.”

There are two components to this investment.  The first is a research component in which Helios Education Foundation and Arizona State University will explore effective professional development practices that prepare educators to establish dual language classrooms that function with high rigor in both English and Spanish.

According to Dr. Paul Perrault, Vice President and Director of Research and Evaluation at Helios, “One of the main purposes of the research is to explore successful classroom conditions for dual language learning while also understanding how best to deliver effective instruction leading to not only fluency, but full comprehension in both languages.”

Original research will also be collected to validate dual language learning programs that can be replicated.

The second component of this investment is programmatic. The REP, utilizing the EYEPlay model developed by Childsplay, will provide professional development activities for preschool educators who teach core content in both Spanish and English to a mixture of native Spanish and English speaking children.

“At Orlando Repertory Theatre our mission is to enlighten, entertain, and enrich both children and adults” said Gene Columbus, Executive Director of The REP. “We are excited to partner with our school district to train educators on the EYEPlay model, developed by Childsplay, which promotes language and literacy development through creative drama.”

 “We are proud to offer a variety of paths that lead our students not only to academic success, but to success in life. Our partnership with Helios Education Foundation and Orlando Repertory Theatre is an exciting new path for our district and our students” shared Barbara M. Jenkins, Superintendent of Orange County Public Schools.

Ultimately, the partners hope to create an aligned and coordinated approach to serving children in dual language learning preschool education programs and produce research-based strategies that other entities can replicate to help ensure more children enter kindergarten ready to succeed and read at grade level by the end of third grade. 

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About Helios Education Foundation

Helios Education Foundation is focused on creating opportunities for individuals in Arizona and Florida to succeed in postsecondary education by advancing the academic preparedness of all students and fostering a high-expectation, college-going culture. Through a decade of strategic partnership and investment, Helios has identified Early Grade Success, College and Career Readiness and Postsecondary Completion as the three most critical reform priorities in achieving our long term goal.

As an engaged foundation, embedded in communities across both states, the Foundation is contributing its expertise and financial resources to better prepare students for college and career in a globally-competitive economy. Since 2006, Helios has invested more than $170 million in education-related programs and initiatives in Arizona and Florida. For more information about the Foundation, visit

About Arizona State University
ASU is a New American University, promoting excellence in its research and among its students, faculty and staff, increasing access to its educational resources and working with communities to positively impact social and economic development. Find out more at

About Orlando Repertory Theatre
The REP is a professional theatre with a mission to create experiences that enlighten, entertain, and enrich families and young audiences. In addition to productions, The REP conducts community engagement initiatives. The award-winning REP Youth Academy provides classes and workshops for children, along with professional development opportunities to classroom teachers. Housed in a three theatre complex in Loch Haven Park, The REP is also home to the University of Central Florida’s MFA in Theatre for young Audiences graduate program. The REP is Florida’s only full-time professional theatre for young audiences.

About Orange County Public Schools

Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) is the 10th-largest school district in the nation. The district serves 197,249 students at 186 schools. OCPS was named a co-winner of the 2014 Broad Prize for Urban Education, regarded by many as the Nobel Prize for public education. Eighteen of the district’s 19 traditional high schools have been named to the Washington Post’s annual Challenge Index National Rankings. Seven high schools were ranked in the top 100 in the state of Florida and two were also ranked in the top 50.

About Childsplay

Childsplay, Inc. is a nonprofit theatre company of professional, adult artists who perform for and teach young audiences and their families. The mission of Childsplay is “to create theatre so strikingly original in form, content or both, that it instills in young people an enduring awe, love and respect for the medium, thus preserving imagination and wonder, the hallmarks of childhood which are keys to the future.” For more information, visit

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