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Kindergarteners Darell Benavides, left, and Santiago Silva chat on opening day of the Dual Language Academy in Omaha, with classmate Gabriel Davidson and his parents, Genesis Cortez and Victor Davidson, in the background. PHOTO BY JOE RUFF/STAFF

First-day excitement reigns at Dual Language Academy

New backpacks, school-color red shirts and even red tennis shoes were plentiful, along with smiles and laughter on opening day of the archdiocese’s Dual Language Academy in Omaha.
 
“He’s a little nervous, but he’s fine,” Genesis Cortez said as she and Victor Davidson helped their son, Gabriel, settle into his kindergarten classroom.
 
With that vote of confidence, the archdiocese’s first-ever effort to offer classes in English and Spanish was off and running Aug. 23 with 88 students in preschool, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes.
 
Research shows students in dual language immersion programs often outperform their one-language peers as early as third or fourth grade and throughout high school, officials in the Catholic Schools Office have said.
“We heard real great things about dual language and we were looking for a dual language school for our son,” Cortez said. A Catholic school also is important, she said.
 
“I’m a believer, and I want him to learn about (the faith), too,” she said.
 
The academy is housed in the former St. Stanislaus School, which was closed in 2013 as part of a broad parish and school restructuring plan. Two other schools – Our Lady of Lourdes and Ss. Peter and Paul – will act as partners to the academy. Both schools will continue to offer all-English classes, and academy students will be funneled into those two schools as they continue to follow the dual language track from first through eighth grades.
 
Watching students stream into the academy with their parents was a wonderful sight, said Michael Ashton, superintendent of Catholic schools, as he helped greet families at the door. 
 
“Opening days are always one of the high moments of the whole school year,” Ashton said. “And we’re even more joyful with the opening of St. Stan’s to education and learning.”
 
The academy has partnered with a team from Boston College in a five-year agreement that will provide mentoring, professional development and guidance for school staff.
 
The language immersion effort is an initiative of the Omaha Catholic School Consortium, which includes Holy Cross and St. Thomas More schools in Omaha and St. Bernadette in Bellevue, as well as Our Lady of Lourdes and Ss. Peter and Paul. 
 

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