Next fall, some Richland County students will begin taking classes taught dually in English and either Spanish or Mandarin Chinese.
Richland 1 is launching a new language immersion program, similar to programs offered by some other Midlands school districts.
Starting with up to 128 kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students, the curriculum will be taught half in English and half in one of the two foreign languages.
The district hopes the program will help produce more global-minded students, said Regina Thompson, Richland 1’s chief of teaching and learning.
“(Students) have more access to technology that takes them to ... other places in the world,” Thompson said. “So now they’re eager to be able to visit or even study in those areas. So just knowing that we can give them a jump start at that and have some language acquisition behind that ... is really awesome.”
Children grasp new languages better the younger they are, said Quantina Haggwood, the district’s director of early childhood education.
“If you think about what goes on around the world in other countries, students acquire second and third languages early on in life,” Haggwood said.
By the time the language immersion students exit the program at the end of fifth grade, district officials expect them to be fluent in either Spanish or Mandarin Chinese.
Learning multiple languages also enhances children’s critical thinking skills, including problem solving and memory, Haggwood said.
On a larger scale, stronger language skills and cultural awareness could make students stronger candidates for higher education and employment, Haggwood said.
As the students continue the language immersion program through fifth grade, new kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students will enter each year. The program initially will be housed at Carver-Lyon Elementary School but could grow to become its own school, Thompson said.
The language immersion classes will be open to any students in the district who apply and are accepted to the program. Transportation will be provided for students outside of a 1.5-mile radius of Carver-Lyon.
Students who apply to the program will be selected by a lottery system.
Applications are due to the district by Friday, March 25. Parents must have attended a mandatory informational meeting to get an application.
The last parent information meeting is at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Meadowfield Elementary, 525 Galway Lane in Columbia.
For more information about Richland 1’s new language immersion program and how to apply, visit www.richlandone.org or call Haggwood at (803) 231-6709.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.