SYRACUSE — Just as anticipated as school Halloween parades in October, very different parades are held at some schools in Northern Utah come January.
Many elementary schools with Chinese dual immersion programs — where some students receive half of their instruction in English and half in Chinese — celebrate Chinese New Year with traditional festivities, like Syracuse Elementary did Thursday. The school held a parade during the day and family night later that evening, complete with opportunities to learn how to play the rattle drum or make Chinese dumplings.
“The Chinese New Year programs have been a huge success this year,” said Branden Lansing, world languages and dual language immersion specialist for Davis School District, in an email.
He estimated several hundred people attended the events at Syracuse and Heritage elementary schools Thursday evening.
The dual immersion programs in Davis district, which are also offered in Spanish and French, have drawn significant interest from communities within the district since it began offering dual immersion in Spanish at two schools in 2006 — Eagle Bay Elementary in Farmington and Sand Springs Elementary in Layton.
“Our programs typically fill to capacity at the entry level with waiting lists at all of our immersion schools, regardless of location or language,” Lansing said. “It is not uncommon for a family to move into a particular school boundary solely to attend an immersion school.”
Parents often want to enroll their children in these programs to support a language that they already speak at home with their children, he said. The district has many heritage speakers, particularly in the Spanish programs, but also in Chinese and French.
The Davis district offers dual immersion programs at 12 of its elementary schools — Spanish at five of them, Chinese at four and French at three. The most recent program launched in 2014.
Students who begin dual immersion at an early age (program entrance is restricted in later grades), are able to continue with advanced language instruction at the junior high and high school level, Lansing said.
The Chinese dual immersion students at Syracuse will continue on to Syracuse Junior High and Syracuse High School, he said, the normal path for any elementary student attending Syracuse Elementary.
The Davis district isn’t the only place where dual immersion programs are thriving. They are offered across the state and have a presence in both Ogden and Weber districts.
Ogden School District first offered dual immersion in Spanish during the 2010-2011 school year, said Adam McMickell, director of student achievement for the district.
Though Ogden is a much smaller school district than Davis, with about 11,500 students, 557 of those students participate in Spanish dual immersion across six schools, elementary through high school, McMickell said in an email.
The district offers dual immersion in Spanish at two elementary schools, Bonneville and T.O. Smith, at the north and south ends of the district, McMickell said.
The district chose Spanish in part because many students in the district already speak Spanish, but that wasn’t the only reason.
“Looking at job opportunities, application of the language within our broader community, we felt like the ... utility of Spanish was really strong, would be a life advantage for the kids who came through ... especially in our area,” McMickell said.
Spanish is the only dual immersion language Ogden School District offers at this time, and there aren’t imminent plans to offer other languages or expand to other schools, McMickell said. However, the Spanish program continues to grow in size simply because its oldest students haven’t yet reached 12th grade.
The district wants to see its first cohort, currently in 10th grade, through graduation, before contemplating expansion, he said.
Weber School District offers dual immersion instruction in two languages, Chinese and Spanish, across four elementary schools, according to the district’s website.
Chinese dual immersion instruction is offered at Uintah Elementary in South Ogden and Bates Elementary in North Ogden. Spanish dual immersion instruction is offered at Majestic Elementary in North Ogden and Freedom Elementary in Hooper.