As school winds down this month, five elementary schools are preparing to teach their first group of young foreign language students.
A total of 200 students have enrolled for 300 spots in the Tooele County School District’s inaugural Dual Language Immersion program (DLI) that will begin this fall.
Two first-grade classes of up to 30 students at each of the five elementary schools will be involved in the program.
DLI does a lot more than just help students become proficient in a foreign language, said JoAn Coon, Tooele County School District elementary education director.
“Utah students in dual immersion perform as well or slightly higher than non-immersion students on standardized tests,” she said. “Immersion students typically develop more flexible cognitive abilities, increased attention control, better memory, and superior problem solving skills.”
Long-term benefits include a better preparation for the future job market, Coon added.
Schools that will start DLI next fall are West Elementary with German, Harris Elementary with Portuguese, Northlake Elementary with Chinese, Grantsville Elementary with French, and Middle Canyon Elementary with Spanish.
The German DLI program at West Elementary, which also contains a science, technology, engineering and math component, will be the first German DLI program in the state.
The French and Spanish programs are full and about 30 openings each are available for German, Portuguese and Chinese.
Students do not have to live within the boundaries of the school to participate in the DLI program.
Students in DLI will attend half the day in a classroom that speaks English and then switch rooms to a teacher that will teach the remainder of the normal curriculum in the target language.
No curriculum content is lost; students will learn the same material, but in the target language.
Principals are hiring foreign language teachers and identifying the English teachers that will participate in the DLI program, Coon said.
Jeff Hamm, principal at Grantsville Elementary, hired a French teacher from France, according to Coon.
The state awarded the district a $70,000 grant to buy curriculum and supplies.
The fiscal impact to the district is minimal, according to Scott Rogers, Tooele County School District superintendent.
While new foreign language teachers will be hired, the DLI program will not increase the total number of teachers in the district.
Some teachers may be moved to other schools to maintain the current teacher to student ratio.
The state legislature first funded dual language immersion programs in 2008 to develop language skills needed for business, government and education.
There were 98 schools in Utah offering DLI in the current academic year.
Applications for enrollment in DLI are available on the district’s website, at the district office, and at participating DLI schools. The district office is located at 92 Lodestone Way, Tooele.