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Catholic Schools Add Dual-Language Classes

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While many public schools offer bilingual classes, not much is written about what Catholic schools are doing. Some are beginning to implement programs that reflect their substantial Latino student populations.

The News Tribune reports that Holy Rosary School in Tacoma, Wash., recently launched a new two-way language program known as Academia Juan Diego. The school began with preschool and kindergarten students, and will expand to older grades in the coming years. The students are a mix of native English and native Spanish speakers.

Three days a week students learn in Spanish, and two days in English.  They even pray in both English and Spanish at the beginning of the school day.

“We wanted to serve Hispanic students, and we wanted to increase our ministry and reach out to Hispanic Catholics,” principal Tim Uhl told the newspaper. “This is the future of the church.”

Last fall, St. Mary Star of the Sea School in Connecticut became the first Catholic school in the state to offer dual-language classes in English and Spanish. St. Procopius School in Chicago has had a dual-language program for more than 15 years.

Catholic schools have had an interesting relationship with bilingualism. Many churches now hold Spanish-language masses. When my mother was a child attending Catholic schools in San Antonio as a child, she wasn’t allowed to speak Spanish.

But in the book the Strange Career of BIlingual Education in Texas, 1836-1981, author Carlos Kevin Blanton describes how Catholic schools along the Texas-Mexico border in cities such as Brownsville and El Paso, and historically offered bilingual classes in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

How are Catholic schools instructing limited English proficient students in your area? Do they offer bilingual programs or instruction all in English? What are the outcomes for the children?