The Bellevue School District hosts one of the longest running language immersion programs in Washington state: its K-12 Spanish Immersion program since 1984. Language immersion starts on day 1 in Kindergarten, when the teacher conducts the class fully in Spanish. It's amazing how quickly the kids pick up on the language. English is introduced a few years into the program to catch the kids up on English grammar and reading by 4th grade. The kids learn the same Bellevue SD approved curriculum translated into Spanish by the teachers themselves. The teachers are of very high quality - recruited from all over the country and very desirous of teaching in a language immersion program. At the middle and high school levels, kids take two courses in Spanish per day: social studies and Spanish grammar/literature, losing one elective in the process.
Some benefits of the program include:
- Research shows - a lot of it from Canadian French immersion programs - that language immersion improves school performance overall.
- The Spanish Immersion parents are a self-selected group who are the most enthusiastic in the district. Volunteers are readily available. Parent meetings are well attended (by tenfold over a regular school). The kids are exposed to extra-curricular activities these parents organize.
- Two foreign teaching assistants are brought into the district each year to assist in the Spanish program, providing a foreign student homestay opportunity for families in the program.
- The 8th grade parents organize a class trip to a Spanish speaking country.
- Fluency in a second language broadens once world outlook and enhances job prospects.
Regarding enrollment, the Puesta del Sol Elementary website currently says:
Puesta del Sol Elementary will host a Spanish Immersion Information Night on January 19, 2011, for parents of potential 2011-12 kindergartners. The meeting starts at 6:30pm and will be held in the school gym.
The program is very popular and a lottery system is used to choose among in-district applicants.