Dual language academy to open next school year

One-half of each day, classes will be in Spanish. The other half, English. That’ll be the format at a Catholic schools’ dual language academy for preschool, prekindergarten and kindergarten students set to open in Omaha next school year. The initiative is another response by the Omaha Catholic School Consortium to a rapidly changing and challenging world, said Donna Bishop, the consortium’s executive director and assistant superintendent of archdiocesan schools. “Students will receive an exceptional Catholic education with a curriculum that will prepare them not only for high school and college, but for their lives and careers in the United States and across the globe,” Bishop said. Site for the academy will be St. Stanislaus School, which was among three elementary schools that closed in 2013 as part of a parish and school restructuring plan in the archdiocese that also created the five-school consortium. Two of the consortium schools will act as partners to the academy – Our Lady of Lourdes and Ss. Peter and Paul. Both schools will continue to offer all-English tracks, and academy students will be funneled into one of those two schools as they continue to follow the dual language track from first through eighth grades. Enrollment opportunities for 150 students, 50 in each class, will be held at Our Lady of Lourdes and Ss. Peter and Paul schools Jan. 22 for students in the 16 Omaha-area parishes that support the consortium and Jan. 29 for the general public. People can apply at those schools on those two days from 8 to 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. About half of each class will be native English speaking students, the other half native Spanish speaking students. And the general public can apply for any remaining open spots at the academy from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 12 through Feb. 15 at the consortium’s business office and Our Lady of Lourdes or Ss. Peter Paul schools. If demand merits it in coming years, other consortium schools – Holy Cross and St. Thomas More in Omaha and St. Bernadette in Bellevue – could be added to the dual language program. And Catholic schools across the archdiocese are invited to learn about and consider the program, Bishop said. The academy is being created by the consortium in partnership with Boston College, which has a national network of 26 Catholic schools offering dual language instruction. The five-year agreement includes the network offering continuous professional development, partnerships with scholars and practitioners, data collection and research. One goal of the consortium has been introducing and promoting innovative learning programs, Bishop said. The academy is another example of that happening, adding to initiatives in transitional kindergarten, blended learning and balanced literacy, she said. Parents have asked for dual language instruction for their children, and research shows students in such programs tend to excel across all subjects, Bishop said. In addition, the earlier in life people learn languages, the better, she said. “(Children) pick up on it so much faster,” she said.

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