Florence elementary school launches language immersion program

Florence elementary school launches language immersion program

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - One elementary school in Florence School District One is the first to launch a language immersion program, which will allow a select group of kindergarten students to learn in English and Spanish.

Delmae Heights Elementary is the only school selected by the district to be funded and begin the initiative.

There are 14 different languages spoken at home with the school families, making it the most diverse population in Florence One. The school made a proposal to the district last spring, held parent interest meetings in June and began the program on the first day of school.

"We're preparing our kids to be global learners, and a part of being a global learner, I think is, being bilingual," said Roy Ann Jolley, principal of Delmae Heights Elementary.

The school is starting kids early, with a total of 48 kindergarten global learners who are now enrolled in the language immersion program, with 24 students in each class.

Students will spend one day learning all content in English, and the following day that same material is learned in Spanish. The school chose the 50/50 model so it would not be too overwhelming for the children and their parents at first.

Delmae students got the first pick, but no matter what school families are zoned for, if accepted into the program, Delmae will be the new home school. Jolley wrote the proposal with one of her teachers who already worked with the language learners.

"The majority of our students who are in the ESOL program have Spanish as their first language," said Jenalee Shepard, an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) specialist. "With this program, it gives our students, especially our Spanish speakers, an opportunity to be leaders in the classroom on days they are learning in Spanish, and our English speakers can be leaders on the days they are learning in English."

The students' teacher, who came from Venezuela, will only speak Spanish to the students from the first day on. The program is a full reading and writing bilingual initiative, and kindergartners are learning the same material as others their age.

"Even though they may not know the language, they know the procedures," Shepard said. "They are following along, and they are learning their colors, they're learning their numbers. They can say their names in Spanish and it's only day two."

School officials said as the kids get older, they believe this program will prepare them for college and applying for jobs.

Right now enrollment is capped, but Delmae hopes to hire a first grade Spanish-speaking teacher for kids to continue with the program throughout elementary school.

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