Starting in Fall 2015, the Moline School District will be the only school district in the bi-state area with this type of program.
At the end of February, students can begin enrolling in the Dual Language Immersion Academy. The program is being offered at Lincoln-Irving Elementary School to students across the district who want to become bilingual in English and Spanish.
A voluntary information meeting is going to be held Thursday, March 5th at 6:30pm at Lincoln-Irving Elementary, 1015 - 16th Avenue. Applications and information is also available here.
"We've been researching dual language as a service model for our bilingual students for about three or four years, working with some of the top people in the country and the state," said Principal Sharon Lantzky.
For the last two years, more than 100 kindergarteners, 1st graders, and 2nd graders have been piloting the program. In the 2015-2016 school year, the Dual Language Immersion Program will be offered to just kindergartners and 1st graders in the district. Lincoln-Irving will add another grade every year after that.
"I think it's really important to offer it at a young age, because they are so much more receptive to it and it comes easier to them," said Esther Aguilera, who has a son in the pilot program. "At first, I was a little concerned that he would only be reading in one language, but with a dual language, his reading is incredible. He is able to look at English and read in English and then switch in the same time and read that in Spanish."
Teachers also say they are seeing the program work and are looking forward to the program's official launch.
"I think it's awesome to see the kids switch between both languages, especially our English speakers, because I have two English speakers who have no Spanish in their homes at all and it's really awesome to see how far they've come," said Caitlin Lingle, a Kindergartner Teacher at Lincoln-Irving. "They're listening in Spanish, they completely understand what I'm saying, they're starting to form sentences in Spanish so it's really awesome to see them grow from the first day of school to where they're at right now."
"They're immersed in it and we're seeing progress just at school and that's all they need," she added. "They're here for seven hours of their day learning in Spanish and that's enough for them to start picking up and especially at such a young age, they're really starting to grab onto all these little words little by little and piecing them together."
Educators say learning to be bilingual at a young age is easier than at an older age, so that's why the program begins in kindergarten.
"Research shows that children are much more capable of absorbing and learning skills at a young age," said Principal Lantzky. "From birth children can be bilingual, but as soon as they enter our public education system we know we can teach them two languages and the earlier we get them the better off it will be."
Principal Lantzky adds that being bilingual is becoming more and more important for life after school - and outside of school - as well.
"What we're able to do is make our students more globally employable by giving them two languages," she said. "It opens up so many more doors as they reach the employment age."
"It also helps celebrate the diversity that we have here in Moline. It's not always just about the language. It's about the cultures and the diversity we can bring in that way and by doing dual language, we're not just exploring one heritage, we're able to blend several different heritages and enjoy them all together."