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ArlingtonEducationCatholic diocese to debut first dual-immersion school program

Catholic diocese to debut first dual-immersion school program

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The Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington’s first effort at dual-language education may be a harbinger of things to come.

The diocese will offer its first-ever two-language education initiative when St. Ambrose Catholic School in Annandale launches a program for kindergartners this coming school year. In the coming years, by the time those children complete eighth grade, every student in the Annandale parish’s K-8 grade school will receive instruction in both English and Spanish.

The Office of Catholic Schools joined St. Ambrose Pastor Father Andrew Fisher and Principal Maria Tejada in unveiling St. Ambrose’s Dual Language Program (DLP) in collaboration with Boston College’s Two-Way Immersion Network. St. Ambrose’s program will provide literacy and content instruction in English and Spanish to all kindergarten students beginning this fall.

The DLP will expand annually to the next grade up until every grade offers English and Spanish instruction.

“We are honored that St. Ambrose School will be the first school in the diocese to implement this dual-language program,” Tejada said. “We are also excited about our plan to one day provide a dual-language experience to every student enrolled in our school.”

St. Ambrose will teach math and science in Spanish and social studies and religion in English. Language arts will be taught in both English and Spanish. All specialty courses – such as technology, library, physical education, art and music – will be taught in English.

“This new two-way immersion program further enriches that experience for St. Ambrose students,” said Joseph Vorbach III, superintendent of schools for the diocese. “Their spiritual and academic formation will occur in an environment in which they also develop bilingual, biliterate and cultural-awareness skills to help them communicate more effectively in an increasingly globalized world.”

Though a first for the diocese, it may just be the start.

“In our increasingly diverse Northern Virginia environment, it is conceivable that other parish schools might consider dual-language-immersion in English and Spanish like St. Ambrose, or in English and another language,” said Diana Sims Snider, deputy director of communications for the diocese, in response to a Sun Gazette inquiry.

“The St. Ambrose effort is, in a sense, a pilot,” she said.

St. Ambrose’s educational bona-fides are strong; the school has been named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education.

It is part of a diocese that has 37 parish (K-8) schools, one “virtual” school, four diocesan high schools, five independent Catholic schools and three free-standing (not connected with a parish school) pre-schools, serving more than 16,800 students.

For more information on Catholic schools in the diocese, see the Website at https://www.arlingtondiocese.org/our-schools/.

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