New dual language immersion program kicks off with new school year in Loudoun Co.

Learning a language is on the agenda for some kindergarten students in a new immersion program in Virginia.

The new dual language immersion program, that started with the school year at Potowmack Elementary in Sterling and Sanders Corner Elementary in Ashburn, is kicking off in kindergarten classrooms with 50 students at each school.

Half are native English speakers and half are native Spanish speakers. Additionally, half of the 50 students are assigned to the schools based on where they live and half are from outside the boundary zone for each of the two schools.

The students participating in the program were selected by a lottery system.

How does it work?

“Half of the students will start the day in English and half of the students will start the day in Spanish,” said said Suzette Wyhs, World Language and Cultures Supervisor at Loudoun County Public Schools.

“The program is designed to create biliteracy so that students read, write and speak and understand both Spanish and English,” Wyhs said.

“In the middle of the school year, the ones that started in Spanish will start in English,” she said.

Wyhs is overseeing the pilot program in the county. She said it’s been a long time coming.

“It’s something that I know the board has wanted for years, and so have I and my colleagues,” Wyhs said.

In their science, math and computer classes, there are language ambassadors to help the students grasp the content in the new language.

Wyhs said it is the first dual language immersion program in Virginia to conduct computer science lessons in Spanish for kindergarten students.

The goal is to have these students continue in the dual language program in first grade and through elementary school and have a new group start in the fall in kindergarten next year.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report. 

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Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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