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Spanish Immersion Program Gets Its Own School

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The Sioux Falls School District's Spanish Immersion Program is only in its fifth year. But already it's expanded beyond the walls of Rosa Parks Elementary School.

Classes started at Robert Frost this fall, which had Spanish Immersion parents asking for the program to be moved to one location. The school board listened, and the program will be on the move soon.

As Senor Alexander Giraldo gathers his class of five and six year-olds, you may notice he addresses them in Spanish.

These Spanish Immersion kindergartners have only heard their teacher speak Spanish since the first day of school, in fact they think it's the only language he knows.

"It's a lot of gestures, gestures. You know, I change the tone of my voice, I use the vocabulary they already know," Giraldo said.

The Spanish Immersion program started at Rosa Parks Elementary five years ago, and it's grown each year. The school district has added a class with each incoming grade. Right now there are four classes of kindergartners in a program that began with just one.

"The kids are learning the same curriculum as in the other kindergarten classrooms, plus we added the language," Giraldo said.

Students in the immersion program mix with students in other classrooms during times like recess. But teachers say moving to a school of their own and being exposed to only Spanish each day will be beneficial.

"The announcements, the assemblys, everything in the target language because that's the way you learn the language," Giraldo said.

The new immersion school will be connected to the district's newest elementary school, which is planned near Southeast Technical Institute on the northwest side of town.

"Under one roof they'll be able to have one administrator, they'll be able to combine resources. It's economically better because we don't have to worry about providing two libraries for example," Sue McAdaragh, the school district's elementary curriculum coordinator, said.

As the program grows toward it's capacity of 600 students, a planned immersion middle school will be located on the same campus.

The program should be in its new location by 2016. The new immersion school will be connected to a traditional elementary school with the two schools sharing a gym and other common spaces to save money.
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