Dual language immersion programs gain popularity in Idaho

Antonia Gutierrez, Staff Writer

School districts around the country are seeing an uptick in Dual Language Immersion programs for their students.

According to the U.S Census Bureau, Jerome, Idaho has an estimated 36.4% Hispanic population. A large portion of the Magic Valley has students that live in a home where Spanish is the main language spoken. Throughout the entire state of Idaho, there are only around a dozen dual immersion programs. Not only are the students becoming bilingual. They are becoming bi-literate at a very young age.

The Jerome School District in Jerome, Idaho started its Spanish Dual Immersion program in 2016.
Jerome’s schools initially introduced the program to their incoming kindergarten and first-grade classes. Each year since, the district has added a grade level to the program. The school district plans to continue adding more grade-levels until they reach their fifth-grade students.

At this point, not every student can take part in the program. Right now, there are 250 students in the program, 50 for every grade level.

In order for students to be considered, parents have to fill out an application.

The program attempts to balance between. English speaking students and Spanish speaking students. In addition, 50% of enrollees are boys and 50% are girls.

When students are accepted into the Dual Language Immersion Program, they spend half their school day learning in English, and the second half learning in Spanish.

“I wanted to be in. I don’t know Spanish. I know some, but I’m not good.” said Maria Gutierrez, a current fourth-grade student in the district. “When I was in second grade they started with first grade, so I couldn’t be in it.”

When asked how the program came about, Jefferson Elementary Principal, Angie Brulotte advised, “It was driven by a group of parents pursuing this option for their kid.”

Eventually, the issue was taken to the Superintendent of the Jerome School District, and finally to the school board.

It took the district less than only one year to organize the program. The school district has had to hire new Spanish-speaking teachers.

There has been an “overwhelming positiveness” with parents, as the school district has shared that less than 1% of parents decide that this program is not for their children.