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Open enrollment period begins for dual language immersion program at Community Park School in Princeton

Students in the dual language immersion program at the Community Park School. Photo courtesy of the Princeton Public Schools.

The dual language immersion program for the Princeton Public Schools is currently accepting applications for the 2023-24 academic year.

Now in its eighth year, the program offers instruction in Spanish and English. Most students enter the program in kindergarten or first grade, but the program is open to all district students in grades K-5 who demonstrate the appropriate proficiency in Spanish. Native speakers can enter the program at any time, as well as students who previously were in similar dual language immersion programs in other districts and demonstrate proficiency. Students who enter the program prior to the January of first grade do not need any specific language expertise. 

The program, which was launched in 2015, was one of the first dual-language programs in the area, officials said. The Community Park model teaches core content in both languages, with about 50 percent in English and 50 percent in Spanish, school officials said. 

Families interested in finding out more about the program are invited to attend one of two information sessions. The first session is on Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 6:30 p.m. A morning information session is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 19, at 9 a.m. Both information sessions will be held at the Community Park School at 372 Witherspoon Street. 

Any student who is interested in languages or whose family is interested in preserving or adding a language is a good candidate for the program. School officials said the program has advantages for both native English and Spanish speakers, as well as students who may speak an entirely different language at home.  Princeton has a diverse multinational community and some of the students who enroll in the program speak other languages in addition to Spanish and English.  

“We have had students apply who speak Mandarin or come from families that speak French or German or Dutch,” said Priscilla Russel, Supervisor of world languages for the district.

“The data shows that students who participate in dual language immersion programs have cognitive advantages over students in monolingual programs,” Russel said, noting that research from the past 30 years indicates that such programs can enhance cognitive skills such as cognitive flexibility, attention control, memory, and problem-solving skills. 

“Even in the early grades our students have good comprehension and fluency,” Russel said. “One year we invited out our Spanish-language students from Princeton High School to read books with Community Park second graders and it was an interesting comparison. There are huge advantages to learning a language at a young age. We see very rapid progress.” 

The school district provides transportation for students in the Johnson Park, Littlebrook, or Riverside neighborhoods who want to participate in the program. This year, the district is making a special effort to make sure that all members of the community have an opportunity to apply, including native Spanish speakers. 

“One of the things I love about this program is that it aligns with our goals for the district,” said Superintendent Carol Kelley. “Our equity goals include ‘opportunity for all’, and the program at Community Park has measurable benefits for students who speak Spanish at home.” 

For more details about the DLI program, call (609) 806.4230 or attend one of the upcoming information sessions.

Spanish and English are each used about half the time in the dual language immersion program at the Community Park School. Photo courtesy of the Princeton Public Schools.
Community Park School Principal Dineen Gruchacz with a dual language immersion student. Photo courtesy of the Princeton Public Schools.