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Santa Maria school's dual immersion program in demand

The 2019-2020 school year will mark the fifth year the dual immersion program at Jimenez Elementary School in Santa Maria.

On Wednesday evening, Santa Maria parents can learn more about a local school’s dual language immersion program.

A handful of Central Coast public school districts offer such programs for children entering kindergarten. Over the years, students learn to read, write, and think in both English and Spanish.

Richard Ruiz, principal of Jimenez Elementary School in Santa Maria, said the program there is a “90:10 model.”

“That means, for the first two years of the program, 90 percent of the time you're being taught in the targeted language—which is Spanish,” Ruiz said. “And then we start to add English more and more—second grade it's 80:20, third it will be 70:30 and so on, until it becomes a 50:50 program”

School officials say studies show that bi-literate students have better focus, memory and decision-making skills.

“The kids get the same standards that everyone else is getting in California, because we teach to the standards,” Ruiz said. “It's just that they're being taught in Spanish, and they get to acquire a whole different language, and a whole different culture.”

The first of four informational meetings—held in English and Spanish— is planned for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Santa Maria-Bonita School District’s office at 708 South Miller Street. Three other sessions are planned for Feb. 13, 27 and March 13.

Students will be chosen via a lottery system, as the program is in demand. Applications will only be offered at one of the informational sessions, so parents interested in the program should attend one of those meetings.

There are dual language programs at public schools in Salinas, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Lompoc, Santa Barbara—and most recently, one started at Solvang School in the Santa Ynez Valley.