Frequently Asked Questions about the BISD Spanish Immersion Program

Q: I’d like my child to be a part of Spanish Immersion. How do I enroll?

A: The application process for the upcoming school year begins in February.   Applicants complete the Bainbridge Island School District Registration Form, and submit to Ordway Elementary’s Administrative Office by the deadline in mid-March. The deadline for the 2017-18 school year will be posted here once it is determined.  Space will be assigned by lottery if there are more applicants than spaces. Priority is given to siblings of students already enrolled in the program and to native or heritage speakers of Spanish.

Q: Does it cost extra to attend the Immersion Program?

A: This program is part of the public school system and is free to students in grades K-4.  

Q: May I observe a class?

A: Yes, please contact Ordway Elementary’s office for more information.  Tour are typically scheduled in February, shortly before the applications are due for the following year.  

Q: Is there required parental involvement in the program?

A:  The Spanish Immersion program relies on parent volunteers. Four hours a month is suggested to support in-class learning, after school planning meetings, special events, and other volunteer opportunities.  

Q: Can my child join the program at any grade level?

A: Kindergarten is the official entry point for the Spanish Immersion Program. If any spaces become available at higher grade
levels, demonstrated proficiency in Spanish is required for acceptance into the program.

General Information About Language Immersion

Q: What is “immersion?”

A: Immersion is teaching a language by “immersing” students in language—that is—using the students’ second language as the medium of classroom instruction.  Immersion, especially at a young age, increases the chances of achieving full fluency in a new language.

Q: What are the benefits of immersion—and, more generally, bilingualism?

A: Numerous studies have been done in recent years, showing the advantages of bilingualism. Some of the more exciting areas of research show that bilingualism has a profound effect on the brain, improving cognitive skills and overall brain function. These effects last until old age. The practical advantages of knowing two languages are also considerable: cultural appreciation, competitive advantage for jobs and college placement, communications skills.

Q: Does immersing kids in a second language confuse them or negatively impact their primary language skills?

A: Not typically. In fact, studies show that language immersion enhances primary language skill. According to a 2009 article in Cornell University’s Chronicle Online, “Learning a second language does not cause language confusion, language delay or cognitive deficit, which have been concerns in the past. In fact, according to studies at the Cornell Language Acquisition Lab (CLAL), children who learn a second language can maintain attention despite outside stimuli better than children who know only one language.”

Q: Are the kids learning math and science in the program?

A: Yes! The same curriculum used in BISD schools is used in Immersion classes. Students are learning about math, science and social studies (and other subjects) in Spanish and English. One of the goals of the District's Spanish Immersion program is to increase overall student achievement, not just language skills.

Q: I don’t know a word of Spanish.  Is this a problem if my child is in the Immersion Program?

A: Not at all.  We have many parents who do not speak Spanish.  The teachers can help answer your questions if something comes up in the homework that is beyond your language ability.  And you might find yourself signing up for a class of your own!

Q: How can I express my support for Spanish Immersion and other language programs?

A: Contact members of the BISD school board. They welcome parent input. Email addresses for the five directors are on the BISD website under “School Board.”

Prepared by parents of Immersion Students, February 2013. Updated June 2016.

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