Spanish immersion program survives in one midstate school district

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Mar 20, 2014 9:35 PM

(Lancaster) -- One of the few Spanish immersion programs in Pennsylvania has survived a critical vote, and will live on.

In a room packed with parents, kids, and interested residents at the Manheim Township District School Board meeting in Lancaster County, speaker after speaker praised the 20 year program, for both tangible and intangible benefits.


Photo by Ben Allen/witf

Students said it made them better prepared for college and gave them a new skill, but also made them more confident.

The Board voted unanimously to keep the immersion program alive, and a loud, sustained cheer went up in the room.

25 students in first grade are picked through a lottery system to have all of their classes in Spanish through grade 4, and then continue to learn it throughout middle and high school.

"These are the elements that go in, that complement our educational process, to make our students a little bit more prepared for what they're going to deal with in the global markets," says Stu Blumental, a supporter of the program.

The Manheim Township School District administration recommended eliminating Spanish immersion, citing staffing and scheduling issues.

Elin Ketels's 12 year old daughter is in the program, and just went to the Dominican Republic on a family vacation.

"Obviously there were native speakers there, and she spoke with every one, and not one of them realized. She spoke so fluently, they had no idea, they could not believe she was not a native speaker."

Just eight districts in the state offer such a program, according to the Center for Applied Linguistics. Lancaster Mennonite School and the School District of Lancaster both run Spanish immersion programs in the midstate.

At least one Board member recommended a study to examine the issues surrounding the program, and asked for the community's support.

This post has been updated to add the School District of Lancaster's Spanish immersion program.

Published in Lancaster, News

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