Beginning this fall, a 30-student kindergarten class at Disney Elementary will spend 80 percent of their day speaking and learning in Spanish as part of a new dual-language immersion program being launched by the Burbank Unified School District.
After more than a year of consideration by educators and repeated requests from parents, the program is kicking off following unanimous approval by the school board.
The new program will help meet demand. Last year, Burbank Unified granted about 200 permits for Burbank elementary students to attend dual-immersion programs outside of the district, according to school officials.
"We really want to have programs that attract people," said Tom Kissinger, director of elementary education for Burbank Unified. "The community deserves to have programs that they ask for."
In Burbank Unified schools, about 45 percent of the district's 1,647 English-language learners speak Spanish. About 36 percent of students speak Armenian. Another 16 percent of students speak a total of around 70 other languages.
School officials have said students' fluency in more than one language will increase their success academically and in their careers as adults.
By the third and fourth grades, students will spend half the day speaking and learning in Spanish and the other half in English.
In Glendale, parents have become cheerleaders for dual-immersion programs currently offered in German, Spanish, Italian, Armenian, Korean, Japanese and French.
Los Angeles Unified offers nearly 40 dual-language programs in Spanish, Korean and Mandarin.
The new class in Burbank is expected to cost the district about $110,000.
A bilingual teacher would be hired for between $70,000 and $90,000 and a bilingual assistant may also be hired, potentially costing the district up to $22,000 more.
Officials estimate textbooks and materials could cost $5,000.
But the class could also generate up to $150,000 in revenue for the district from state funds that schools receive to teach students.
The program will grow each year and begin at the high school level in 2022. Once students reach ninth grade, officials hope they will be bilingual and literate in Spanish.
After the board approved the program, Kissinger said parents -- including those who are bilingual -- showed overwhelming interest.
"We've had an incredible response," Kissinger said.
A lottery in April will determine who will be accepted into the first kindergarten class. Those who don't get selected in the lottery will land on a waiting list.
[For the Record, March 4, 2013: An A1 story that published on March 2 about the new dual-language immersion class at Disney Elementary, the article incorrectly stated nearly half of all the district's students are English language learners who speak Spanish. Actually, only 45 percent of the district's 1,647 English language learners speak Spanish.]
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