Beyond the Books: Waterloo introduces dual-language classroom to kindergartners

Lou Henry Elementary in Waterloo is the first school in the district to offer kindergartners an opportunity to learn both English and French.

Foreign language is becoming more prevalent in Corridor classrooms and beyond.

With diversity and the demand growing, Waterloo Schools have created an opportunity for their youngest learners to learn multiple languages.

Twenty-two kindergartners at Lou Henry Elementary School are enrolled in a dual-language classroom, offering both English and French.

The classroom consists of two teachers who provide students with instruction in each language.

Lou Henry Principal Jake Youngkent said the program had been in the works for sometime, but is a year ahead of schedule given what he described as a "perfect storm."

"We have had over the last couple years a large influx of Congolese students in our building," said Youngkent, adding the school had an extra 20 kindergartners than expected.

While the decision was made in part to an uptick in French-speaking students, more than half of the 22 (12) are native English speakers.

The blending of both languages and cultures improves learning efficiency, according to Associate Superintendent Charles McNulty, who said the program will better prepare the students for an increasingly diverse world.

"Language acquisition and language use in a global society leverages economic opportunity, leverages political opportunity," said McNulty. "And I think that in Waterloo, we have a great opportunity now to have a future for all our children."

Only weeks after unveiling the dual-language program, district leaders are already focused on the next language.

"There has been strong feedback throughout the community about, 'What's next? Where's Spanish?' We see that as the next step to ensure our children get the best education possible," said McNulty.

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