WALNUT CREEK -- Starting next fall, 60 kindergarten students at Bancroft Elementary may learn to read and write in both English and Spanish in a Mt. Diablo school district dual-immersion program.

The district is accepting applications through Friday from parents of English-speaking, Spanish-speaking and bilingual children interested in enrolling in the program, which will include one Spanish classroom and one English classroom. Students will alternate between classes, with the goal of being able to speak and read both languages fluently.

Traci McPhee, whose 5-year-old son Jack attends a Spanish-immersion preschool in Walnut Creek, said she's excited about the pilot kindergarten program because it will give him the opportunity to build on what he has learned so far.

"I think it's so important for our children to be world citizens," she said. "They will be not only bilingual, but biliterate and bicultural. There are just so many benefits of learning a second language."

It is the only dual-immersion program in the Mt. Diablo district. Jeanne Duarte-Armas, director of English learner services, said students can apply to transfer to Bancroft from other district schools, or from other districts. Preference will be given to those residing in the Bancroft attendance area, then to district residents, then to those from outside the district.

The class is hoping to enroll 20 English-speaking students, 20 Spanish-speaking students and 20 bilingual students, she said. Already, she said, interest is high from English speakers and bilingual children who attend Spanish immersion preschools in Walnut Creek and the Lamorinda area.

Now, the district is planning to do more outreach to families whose children attend low-performing schools in Concord and Bay Point, who are eligible for free busing to Bancroft under the federal No Child Left Behind law. The district is also collecting information from parents interested in a dual-immersion first-grade program, but Duarte-Armas said there may not be enough students to start a program at that level next fall.

MORE INFORMATION:
Details about the Mt. Diablo school district's planned dual-immersion Spanish-English kindergarten are available by calling 925-682-8000 ext. 4026 or by e-mailing duartearmasj@mdusd.org. To see a PowerPoint presentation about the program, visit www.contracostatimes.com/education.