Westminster district promotes biliteracy with dual immersion programs in Spanish and Vietnamese

On the heels of launching the state’s first Vietnamese dual-language immersion program, the Westminster School District has added another dual-language program — this time in Spanish.

In September, Westminster began teaching preschool and kindergarten classes in both English and Spanish at Willmore Elementary School. The preschool courses are three hours a day, with instruction in English one day and Spanish the next. Kindergarten classes span the full school day, with half of the instruction in Spanish and half in English. Both are five days a week.

Students in a classroom“Dual-language immersion programs are among the most impressive forms of education currently being offered in the United States,” Westminster Superintendent Dr. Marian Kim Phelps said. “Students who participate in these programs exhibit grade-level academic mastery, well-developed language and literacy skills in two languages, and cross-cultural competence.”

Westminster officials point to research that shows dual-language students experience increased cognitive benefits and improved academic growth when compared to their monolingual peers. The program also aims to promote cultural proficiency, global citizenship and other 21st-century skills while offering advantages for college admissions and scholarships.

“There is such a demand for this program that we already have waiting lists for both the preschool and kindergarten classes,” said Phelps.

A number of local districts have in recent years embraced dual-language immersion in Spanish, which is the second most commonly used language in the U.S. and trails only Mandarin worldwide. (We reported last month on a new program in Garden Grove.) But the Westminster School District made history last year by implementing a Vietnamese dual language immersion academy at DeMille Elementary School.

Westminster serves a diverse population of roughly 10,000 students enrolled in kindergarten through grade eight at 17 campuses in Westminster, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach and Midway City. To recognize benchmarks toward biliteracy, the district has established the “K-8 Pathways to Biliteracy Awards,” which are presented to students who can demonstrate specific skills in two or more languages. In its pilot year, 90 students earned the award.

“Through our two dual language immersion offerings, we are sending a clear message that multilingualism is an asset,” Superintendent Phelps said.

Westminster’s programs are open to all students in Southern California, and its schools offer before- and after-school day care. If you would like to enroll in a dual-language program or learn more, the district is hosting a number of Dual Family Information Nights beginning in January. For additional information, visit www.wsdk8.us or call 714-894-7311, Ext. 1085.