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Students begin language immersion program

Language Immersion Program

RIGBY, Idaho - More than 200 students in the Jefferson Joint School District 251 started this school year in the new language immersion program.

The school district offered parents with a choice of four languages, French, Portugese, Chinese and Spanish.

After surveying parents, Chinese and Spanish were chosen.

Song and dance start off the day for kindergartners and first-graders at Jefferson Elementary in Rigby, but unlike a regular classroom, students are taught in Spanish.

"Teachers are speaking only Spanish to the kids," said principal Eric Jensen.

One hundred and sixty students are enrolled in the Spanish immersion program.

"At first it's kind of hard, and then it gets a lot funner and funner," said first-grader Britton Hanson.

Students spend half the day in immersion. Jensen said language arts and social studies are taught in English but math and science are taught in Spanish.

Chinese immersion was chosen for Southfork Elementary where 100 students are enrolled in the program. Two teachers were brought in from China to teach the curriculum.

"It's an adventure. It's fun with the cute kids. They are very fun," said Chinese teacher Li Li.

"They think it's cool to write the Chinese characters by themselves," added Jin Yu, who also teaches Chinese.

No matter which foreign language the students are learning, starting at a young age makes all the difference.

"They won't sound like a high schooler or adult who has learned the language as a second language. It will sound like their native language," said Jensen.

The students who choose to continue the program through high school will graduate with a minor in that language.

The program is so popular, school administrators say they will likely have to hold a lottery for next year's enrollment.

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