PARK SPANISH IMMERSION SCHOOL HISTORY
HISTORY for the St. Louis Park Spanish Immersion School began when St. Louis Park parents, and the community participated in a Strategic Planning process. Eight Strategic Plans resulted, with one being that St. Louis Park families have a school choice, and that St. Louis Park would be a district with innovative academic programs. Implementing a language immersion program addressed the issue of school choice for St. Louis Park parents. It also brought a global education component to the St. Louis Park Public Schools.
Implementation of the Park Spanish Immersion School took place in the 1996-1997 school year. The Board of Education and the school administration are committed to the Park Spanish Immersion School, as an elementary K-6 school of choice in St. Louis Park. Dialogue and initial planning for the “graduates” of the elementary immersion program began long before students would attend the St. Louis Park Middle School.
LANGUAGE IMMERSION is defined as a method of foreign language instruction in which the regular elementary curriculum is taught through the medium of the language. The guiding principle of language immersion is that students learn the second language in the same way they learned the first language; that is in the environment where they experience it in its natural form. The second language is not the focus of instruction, but the medium of instruction. The students in Spanish Immersion learn the same curriculum as they would in an English speaking classroom throughout the district, except they learn entirely in Spanish.
STUDENTS AT THE KINDERGARTEN LEVEL DO USE ENGLISH, however, teachers instruct and respond in Spanish. This offers the children the security of having their needs, and feelings understood, yet provides them with constant opportunity to hear the sounds, and patterns of the target language. As their ears become more accustomed to Spanish, they are increasingly encouraged to express themselves in Spanish. During kindergarten, and grade one, Spanish is the only language of the classroom. Formal training in reading English begins in grade two, and the time allocated for English instruction increases as students move into the higher elementary grade levels.
RESEARCH has clearly shown that second language proficiency in an immersion program does not come at the expense of achievement in English or other curriculum areas. Intense exposure to a foreign language at an early age assures that students will have the necessary language skills to deal with curriculum in the upper grade levels. Studies have also shown that on standardized tests, immersion students consistently score at the same or higher levels as non-immersion students. Further, immersion students also develop improved listening skills, greater divergent-thinking skills, and they acquire a global perspective of the world.
GOALS for Spanish language immersion students are similar to regular education, but there are additional goals. At Park Spanish Immersion School, students receive additional educational, and cultural experiences, which will prepare them for the future, by being immersed in a second language. Beginning in kindergarten, students begin to acquire the ability to speak another language, and to have the knowledge, understanding, and deep appreciation of other cultures. Language immersion students will learn the skills needed to live and work in a global world, and community.
SCHOOL LOCATION is within the Central Community Center Building at 6300 Walker Street, St. Louis Park, Minnesota. The Park Spanish Immersion School occupies the west half of the building.
ENROLLMENT is open to all students in the St. Louis Park School District through an application and lottery process. Bus transportation is provided for all students within the district. The district office accepts Open Enrollment applications for out-of-district families, however, priority is given to St. Louis Park residents. Please see the PSI Admissions Policy
for detailed information about enrollment to PSI. The St. Louis Park School Board approves 84 students for kindergarten each year. Additional enrollment consideration above the 84 seats is at the Superintendent’s discretion, and 4 'spots' are available for families qualifying for the Minneapolis ‘Choice Is Yours’ program. Class size is typically 22-24 students per kindergarten section. There are four full day kindergarten sections at PSI.
Spanish language skills are increased by building on previous skills, which is the reason students should ideally begin the program in kindergarten or first grade, be a native Spanish speaker, or transfer to PSI from another Spanish immersion program. Transfer enrollment requests are granted only as space allows, and students can successfully pass a grade-level appropriate Spanish language assessment.
TEACHING ASSISTANTS work in the kindergarten classrooms at PSI. Because students in a language immersion school learn the second language in the same way they learned the first language, that is in an environment where they experience it in its natural form, having an additional second language model in the classroom is of critical importance. All of the teaching assistants are native or near-native Spanish speakers.
AMITY SCHOLARS are also teaching assistants who come to PSI through Amity Institute International. The application and monthly expenses for these teaching assistants is entirely paid for by funds raised by the PSI PTO. The PTO also coordinates and finds host families to provide board and housing for the Amity interns. There are no district resources allocated to these assistants and no district funds will be used.
QUESTIONS regarding Park Spanish Immersion School may be addressed to:
PSI Main Office: 952-928-6759
PSI fax: 952-928-6753