The Catholic school approach to non-English instruction allows students who know very little English to attend the school, and work alongside students fluent in the language.
“The younger children are just like sponges,” said Liz Krieg, principal of St. Boniface Catholic School. “They just absorb so much so quickly. Students want to be like each other. They want to fit in. “
The school employs assistants who know Spanish to assist children who need help with English. The same assistants are available to give extra help to any student who needs it.
“We have very good teachers and our students who are learning English are really integrated with the rest of the students,” Krieg said. “We don’t feel that we need a special program for them. “
She said children who speak languages such as Spanish or Vietnamese at home pick up English very quickly, and want to learn it.
Krieg attributes the success of the school’s 280 students to good teachers, a learning plan that focuses on basics and phonics and the students’ desire to learn good English.
But the school doesn’t want students to lose their heritage, Krieg said.
It holds regular cultural days for students to talk about their background, share food and wear clothing from their home country.
Every student in kidnergarten through eighth grade is introduced to Spanish.
Kindergartners have 20 minutes of instruction per week.
First-graders have one 45-minute session each week.
Students in grades two through six study Spanish for 25 minutes twice a week. Seventh- and eighth-graders study Spanish for 45 minutes once a week.
“The day may come when we decide we need more assistance for students who speak Spanish and Vietnamese, but for now out program works quite well,” Krieg said. “If they don’t speak English at home, that is a handicap. But I wouldn’t say it is really bad. “