Visalia school debuts language program for young students

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VISALIA, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — Mountain View Elementary School in Visalia is pioneering the VISTA Dual Immersion program this year.

“We’re super excited. I’ve got a great team of teachers,” said principal Amy Tarantino-Jones. “We have two kindergarten classrooms that we’re getting started with.”

50 kids will learn math, science, and social studies in both English and Spanish.

“It’s designed for 50/50. So 50% of the class are English speakers, and then the other 50%, their first language is Spanish. The idea is to bring these students together; they’re learning from each other, they’re collaborating. They’re learning how to think and become bi-literate in both languages.”

Because of the teaching strategies used, students will develop the ability to read, write, speak, and listen in another language. They will be completely bi-literate in both English and Spanish at the end of the program, which concludes at the end of their 6th-grade year.

“It’s just a great college and career readiness tool that all students should have access to,” said Tarantino-Jones.

She adds that the program will be especially rewarding for immigrant children as they will be able to preserve this part of their culture. She assures parents it won’t impact a child’s English proficiency.

“What’s great about the program is that we get to enhance their first language. We’re teaching them how to think critically, how to read, speak, listen.”

According to the Visalia Unified District’s website, research shows that students who are proficient in two languages perform better on tasks that require divergent thinking and problem-solving.

The VISTA Dual Immersion program is the first of its kind district-wide, though it will be expanded each year.

“Next year we’ll add, not only the two kindergarten, but we’ll add two more and that will be first grade. The year after that will be second grade, and so on,” said Tarantino-Jones.

There’s still room to sign up. Native Spanish speakers and non-Spanish speakers are welcome, though native speakers are highly encouraged to enroll. For more information, visit Mountain View Elementary School’s website or call 559-730-7783.

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