Sioux Falls public schools immersing students in Spanish
When you enter this classroom you leave your English speaking skills at the door.
The teaching and learning is done in Spanish.
"Inside the classroom it's 100% Spanish throughout the day starting in kindergarten, so our kindergarten students are immersed in Spanish," said Rosa Parks principal Jeff Sheets.
Six year ago, a group of parents said their children's native language wasn't enough. They wanted their kids to be bilingual.
"We're a global society. We're a global world and around the world many children are bilingual if not trilingual," said Sioux Falls School District superintendent Dr. Pat Homan.
At Rosa Parks elementary on Sioux Falls east side, the Spanish immersion program is offered for kindergartners through fifth graders.
"It's very popular, and it's a positive choice for parents if they'd like to choose that option of second language for their child," said Sheets.
So popular that the district had to put an application process with a caveat in place.
"We honestly had parents prior to the children being born putting the child's name and wanting slots on the list. So, we moved into a lottery system," said Dr. Homan.
The second most common language in the U.S. with 34 million speakers, the Spanish vocabulary is similar to English - words are pronounced as they are written.
"You can see their critical thinking skills develop quickly. The kindergartners quickly pick up the language through repetition, visual representations, and they're excited to learn," said Sheets. "And, in fifth grade it's amazing their level of Spanish and the discussions they have."
With the help of their native or native-like speaking teachers, these second graders are well on their way toward becoming bilingual.