School Leaders Discuss Success of Dual Immersion Program

By: Estephany Escobar Email
By: Estephany Escobar Email

HARRISONBURG, Va -- Hunter Rush teaches second graders how to spell in Spanish. The kids started in kindergarten in a dual immersion program at Smithland Elementary. That means they spend half of their day taking classes in Spanish and half taking them in English.

"I think getting it this early, the students don't know any different," said Rush.

Lindsey Ruvalcalba did not speak any English when she started the program, but she said she can see her progress.

“At home I'm teaching my mom some," said Lindsey.

Braeden McGhrath measures his progress in Spanish in the classroom.

“That since I moved up to first grade, I've known more words and how to spell them better and pronounce them better,” said McGrhath.

Jeremy Aldrich is the foreign language coordinator for Harrisonburg City Schools and he said their success is impressive.

“The students in the dual immersion program are scoring at or above to what we see in their grade so we are very pleased with their progress," said Aldrich.

Aldrich said they are so pleased, they are hoping to see if they can expand the program to other elementary schools and many parents are already interested.

“Dual language immersion is a fantastic fit to Harrisonburg because our high ESL numbers and also our diverse community.”

Aldrich said they are considering adding some courses for those coming out of this program.

"We wanna make sure that we follow our kids up and that we continue to provide them services so they don't lose what they've already gained in elementary school," said Rush.

Rush said if the city would find math and social studies teachers who speak Spanish, then that would help students.

Harrisonburg City Schools Superintendent Scott Kizner said he is looking for input from parents to see if the schools should expand the program. School leaders had to limit the number of students allowed in the program because of the demand.

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