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Jefferson School District considers immersing students in a foreign language

One upper valley school district is looking to promote bi-literacy among its students.

The Jefferson School District is considering starting a World Language Program in the elementary schools.

“If they start it at Kindergarten or 1st grade, they just think that’s how they’re supposed to learn and away they go,” said Jefferson School District Superintendent Ron Tolman.

Tolman said the uniqueness of a language immersion program is that the language isn’t taught as a subject — it becomes the language of instruction.

“Many of them will leave their high school with a minor in their language. A college minor, so it’s amazing. It really gives the students a leg up, competitively,” said Tolman.

Students would learn math, science, social studies and health through a world language for half of the school day, such as chinese, spanish, portuguese, or french. Students would receive instruction in English for language arts the other half of the day.

“Chinese and Spanish are the priorities for the parents, but almost every parent says if they can’t get their language of choice, they’ll be happy to take the other language offered,” said Tolman.

The school district will decide in January whether there is enough interest to start the program in the fall of 2013 for kindergarten and first grade students.

As of right now, the school district is only considering the program; no implementation plan has been set up yet.

The district has scheduled informational meetings for parents to learn about the program and voice their opinions.

There is a meeting Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Jefferson Elementary.

Another meeting will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. at South Fork elementary and another on Wednesday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at Roberts Elementary.

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