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 School, Business Leaders Visit Two Dual Language Programs

​School and business leaders took a unique Red Carpet Tour of two local elementary Dual Language Programs recently, as part of the San Diego County Office of Education’s Strategic Plan to raise awareness of world languages and their importance to workplace readiness.

“Everywhere else in the world, students speak two languages, at least,” said County Superintendent of Schools Randy Ward, from the front of the yellow school bus that transported the tour’s 32 participants. “What languages do for our children, in terms of preparing them for the workplace, is obvious. There should be an opportunity for every parent to have a language option in their community, or in their school district.”

The tour made two stops: Nestor Language Academy in the South Bay Union School District in Imperial Beach; and Riverview Elementary School in the Lakeside Union School District. Participants heard program overviews at each school before visiting classrooms with staff members.

In classrooms at both sites, participants heard students who’d never spoken another language before this year calmly respond to questions in Spanish. There was no anxiety, no acting out; just classrooms of tiny children working 100% of their time in a new language. And at Riverview, they saw students as young as third graders receiving instruction in Mandarin Chinese as well.

Staff at both schools spoke glowingly of their program’s impact. They said students in both programs have improved achievement across the board, in addition to acquiring a new language.

“I was very impressed with the children, and seeing how well they were responding and following along with the writing,” said Manuel Paul, Superintendent of the San Ysidro School District. Paul said his district board is considering a similar language program.

In addition to San Ysidro, representatives from six other school districts also took part: San Marcos Unified, Fallbrook Elementary, Alpine, Escondido Elementary, Dehesa, and Lakeside. Businesses taking part included AT&T, Wells Fargo, Costco, Union Bank, Radio Latina and Harrah’s Rincon.

Several business representatives were quick to cite the advantages that dual-language speakers have in the job market. Veronica Cadwalader of Wells Fargo said Spanish skills are essential for new hires, more important that previous banking experience.

Said Stacey Larson-Everson of the Fallbrook Union School District, “It was impressive to see the children us their new language in a natural way, answering questions with full sentences. They’re really learning the language, not just the vocabulary.”

Larson-Everson said her district was in the “very early stages” of considering a dual language program.