Although only in its second year, the dual immersion program at Denair Elementary Charter Academy is already setting students up for bilingual and biliterate success with two kindergarten classes and two first grade classes this year.
“[Offering dual immersion] is important because we believe that being bilingual-biliterate will open doors for better opportunities for our students entering the 21st century,” said Principal Lucy Zamora.
With two kindergarten classes and two first grade classes this year, the program currently has about 65 students from Denair and neighboring cities — including students from Turlock who were unable to secure a spot in the dual immersion programs at Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy and Wakefield Elementary School.
“As more grade levels open we can foresee an increase in enrollment for the dual immersion strand,” said Zamora.
The dual immersion program follows a 90 percent Spanish and 10 percent English model, and as students progress through the grades, the amount of Spanish decreases, while the amount of English increases. Zamora said that students can expect to be bilingual and biliterate into high school, where they can receive a Seal of Biliteracy, a gold seal on the transcript or diploma of a graduating student to show that they have successfully mastered fluency in more than one language.
Zamora said DECA hopes to grow the dual immersion program by promoting teacher training and support. Next week, dual immersion teachers will partake in a national dual immersion conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico with the expectation that they will bring new skills that will be used in the classroom to promote biliteracy.
To support the dual immersion program’s vision statement and promote multicultural awareness, the program hosted a Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, event Wednesday morning complete with altars and a short presentation about the holiday.
“As our program grows, we thought it would be a great way for students — not only the dual students enrolled — to experience something that is done in another country,” said first grade dual immersion teacher Bibiana Sandoval. “As we expand our bilingual program, we are working on fostering cultural expansion exposure, and understanding. We also thought that as an educational perspective it would give students vocabulary, thought process, and writing experience and practice.”
In Turlock Unified School District, the growing demand for the dual immersion program at Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy, which began in 1993 with two kindergarten classes and 60 students, led the district to dedicate the site as a full magnet school with nearly 1,000 students enrolled in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade this year.
TUSD also made the decision in March to move dual immersion sixth grade students to Dutcher Middle School to provide some relief to the Osborn campus. This year, there are just over 100 sixth graders at the middle school campus.
Continued parent and community interest in the dual immersion program also prompted TUSD to implement a dual immersion strand at Wakefield Elementary School this year with 96 transitional kindergarten and kindergarten students.
“Currently, there are four dual immersion classes at Wakefield, one TK class and three Kindergarten,” said Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Heidi Lawler in September. “The Wakefield program offers extended day for TK and K students and an environmental science emphasis to enhance its program as well.”