Elementary school boasts bilingual students - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Elementary school boasts bilingual students


SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -- We live in an ever-evolving world, and one Sioux City school is preparing some of its students for that, the second they walk through the door.

Irving Elementary is located in one of the city's most diverse neighborhoods and its teaching methods definitely reflect that.

"Sixty-percent of our students are English language learners," says Irving principal Dr. Richard McGrath.

That's why Irving took advantage of a state grant four years ago, to become a dual-language school.

McGrath says, "Children pick up a second language a lot easier than adults, so they're at the ripe age to pick up a second language."

Students spend half of their day in the more traditional English-only classroom, but the other half, students speak only in Spanish. Each grade has two sections of the dual language program, which parents must specifically request for their children.

"This has connected two groups of kids in English-speaking children and Spanish-speaking children and made a great big community," says parent Amy Hodge.

Hodge doesn't even live near Irving, but got her daughter enrolled here, so she could be bilingual at an early age.

Hodge says, "My daughter is reading, speaking and writing English and Spanish equally well."

Which is why the school is in such high demand.

"I'm the only one that can speak Spanish and just not English in the family," said third-grader Brittney Hughes.

Many students act as a translator for their parents.

"My mom, she gets these texts from her boss and she doesn't know how to read them, so I help her out," said third-grader Christian Lavariega.

It's a program that's paid off, and one that educators say will serve their students even better in their adult lives.

"I think they love it, and they're really good at it," McGrath said.

Dr. McGrath says there are five different language spoken at Irving, so many students are actually picking up a third language.

He says one of the biggest challenges of the program is scheduling since the English and Spanish classrooms are constantly switching throughout the day.

Irving is one of three elementary schools in Iowa, and the newest, to participate in the dual-language program. The two others are in West Liberty and Marshalltown, which have high Hispanic populations.

Online Reporter: Zach Tecklenburg

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