Arlington Citizen-Journal

Elementary students at this school can become bilingual and earn high school credits

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For as long as there have been parents and children, an old joke exists that kids sometimes seem to be speaking a different language.

Now, they really will be — and it’s no joke, though it will be enlightening.

The Wimbish World Language Academy, formerly Wimbish Elementary, is scheduled to open in the Arlington school district in the fall. Applications are currently being accepted for students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.

The school is free, but parents and guardians must register the children. Those enrolled will be provided proficiency in multiple languages, cultural understanding, and an expanded world view. Students can select a dual-language pathway in either English/Spanish or English/French.

And they can receive high school credit while still in elementary school.

“The opportunity for students to get a head start on language acquisition and high school credit while in elementary school will truly set them on the path to start realizing their potential while they’re with us,” Arlington ISD Superintendent Dr. Marcelo Cavazos said.

The school opens in August. Applications are submitted online at https://www.aisd.net/.

French/English or Spanish/English tracks are available for pre-K and first grade starting in 2019, with an additional grade level added yearly. Students will become bilingual and biliterate through a rigorous grade level content curriculum in both languages.

An additional Foreign Languages in Elementary Schools class will be offered to grades 2-6, where students can choose between Spanish and French starting in the fall and Chinese Mandarin starting in 2020.

“The World Language Academy is unique in our area. Many schools offer dual-language options in Spanish/English, but the addition of French/English and the plans for Mandarin to be introduced in the 2020 school year make this academy a rare treasure for parents who want their children to be exposed to the languages and cultures of the world,” AISD Executive Director of Marketing and Communications Anita Foster said.

“The simple act of learning another language could increase your overall intelligence and improve your memory,” Wimbish Principal Delisse Hardy said. “Learning a language forces your brain to work in a different manner to the norm, stimulating and expanding the brain’s memory and language processing centers.

“The learning process helps expand your attention span and creates a stronger working memory, overall increasing your cognitive abilities. These skills are transferable to other aspects of life.”

Hardy said learning another language also increases cultural understanding.

“The ability to find common ground with peers is now a crucial global competence for students as there is an increase in social and cultural diversity,” she said. “Learning another language also increases job opportunities, as the demand for bilingual employees is increasing.”

Foster said the World Language Academy will be about much more than learning to speak a language. Students will experience lessons with 21st century learning skills that include critical thinking, communication, and creativity and collaboration, preparing learners to evolve with the needs of their environment.

Additionally, technology will be integrated into the student’s learning to enhance content and language acquisition.

“The environment we’re creating will allow students to learn about a variety of cultures and customs as well,” she said. “During the summer, we’ll offer special projects so our students can continue to practice their language skills. The goal through the art of languages is for students to start understanding at an early age the global environment they are sure to grow up in.”

Foster said studies show that the younger a person learns and practices another language, the more able they are to retain that language.

“Many people will recall taking their first language course in high school, and most will admit to little retention of that language in subsequent years,” she said. “Because we want students to begin learning languages during their youngest years and continue on that track through high school, we created the World Language Academy.”

Foster said the earliest cohorts taking dual-language courses will be entering the fourth grade in the fall, so work is underway now to ensure that when they complete the sixth grade junior high courses will be available. She said more information will be available in the coming year as the program is developed.

“The World Language Academy is growing global leaders, students who can communicate effectively in more than one language and across cultures, and who are better prepared for success in a global society,” Hardy said.

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