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11-15-19 — District to Launch Language Immersion Program

Nov. 15, 2019 ~ Imagine students going to school and spending half of their day immersed in Spanish. Students would learn science, social studies, and math in both Spanish and English throughout the day. Imagine that they start in kindergarten and learn to read and write in two languages as they progress through elementary school. Imagine that they graduate from high school with both biliteracy and cross-cultural skills.

We won’t have to imagine this idea for much longer as the Olathe Public Schools will launch a dual language immersion program at two elementary schools beginning in the 2020-21 school year. Starting in the fall, two dual language immersion kindergarten sections will be launched at Black Bob and Manchester Park elementary schools.

“We are very intentionally starting small,” Assistant Superintendent for Learning Services Brent Yeager said. “We want to build a program that really serves the needs of our students and our community.”

Incoming kindergarten students interested in being a part of the immersion program will enter an application into a lottery system. Some seats will be saved for students living in the elementary attendance area and other seats will be open to families wanting to transfer into the program. Each subsequent year after the 2020-2021 school year, a Spanish immersion teacher will be added to the next grade to build the program.

“Immersion programs set the stage for students to develop advanced language proficiency,” District Coordinator for ELL and World Languages Mike Flenthrope said. “We are excited about this program because it offers the gift of language to our students.”

More details will be shared in the coming months about how parents can enter their child into the lottery system for a spot in a kindergarten immersion class. Additionally, the district is actively seeking high quality teaching staff with native or near native Spanish skills to work as the inaugural teachers in the new program. But more than anything, district staff are excited for the possibilities ahead with language immersion.

“We know that studying foreign language not only makes our students more competitive in the global world, but also sets them up to better understand the world we live in,” Yeager said. “We look forward to the opportunities this provides students to truly learn a new language and new culture, and develop and retain skills they can use for a lifetime.”

There will be no additional cost to participate in the immersion program and the addition of the program is not expected to impact other class sizes at either school.