Dare schools prep to immerse elementary students in Spanish

By on April 17, 2018

Dare County Schools are well into preparing for the 2018-19 school year with a plan that would introduce a Spanish language immersion program in elementary schools.

Although the program is still in its preliminary stages and no final decision has been made, outreach to parents of incoming students has shown considerable support.

And based on the response from the public, it is highly likely an immersion program will be introduced in nearly all Dare County elementary schools next school year, according to Dare County Schools Superintendent John Farrelly.


“The parent interest in the program has been incredible,” Farrelly said. “In fact, within five minutes after the electronic registration form went live on the website, we had over 70 parents register their child for the program.”

First of a two-part series

Dare County’s proposed immersion program will teach students in both English and Spanish, although there are programs elsewhere that use other foreign languages.

What makes the immersion program different is rather than teaching a foreign language in a dedicated class, it will be used throughout the day in all areas of instruction.

The plan being developed by Dare County Schools calls for 90 percent Spanish instruction in kindergarten and first grade, with art and music taught in English. In grades three through five, English and Spanish will be split 50-50.

Not every student in every school will be placed in an immersion classroom. A selection process will take place in the weeks ahead to determine which students will participate.


Although there were some early examples of dual language education beginning in the 1960s, the first true immersion programs were introduced in the early 1970s. More than 90 North Carolina school systems now use immersion programs.

“Dual language programs consistently result in higher levels of student achievement and social skills,” Farrelly said. An extensive body of research would seem to confirm that statement.

There is conclusive evidence that students enrolled in immersion programs develop proficiency in both their primary and secondary languages.


Immersion instruction does not necessarily create a student who will speak the second language as well as someone who was raised with that language, though.

If Spanish is the immersion language, students will be able to understand instructions in the language, answer questions appropriately and be able to read and comprehend grade appropriate material.

Nonetheless, “immersion students’ second language skills are not native-like. They make persistent grammatical errors, have a limited range of vocabulary, and their usage is not idiomatic,” according to a survey of immersion research by the University of Minnesota Center for Advanced Language Acquisition.

However, there seem to be a number of long-term benefits.

Studies have shown that over time immersion students outperform other students in language skills and have a better understanding of phonetics and how that can be used to understand the meaning of a word.

Language skills, as important as they are, may not be the only benefit of immersion instruction.

There is a growing body of research that shows immersion students demonstrate enhanced cognitive skills — the ability an ability to apply the experience and information they have gained in the classroom to solve problems.

What is not clear is why that seems to be the case.

“While much evidence supports the benefits associated with full and active bilingualism, the relationship between language immersion education and long-term cognitive benefits is as yet less well-understood,” the University of Minnesota researchers wrote.

Although not as well studied as other effects of immersion programs, there is evidence that students who are exposed to a second language and the traditions associated with it are better able to understand and interact with other cultures into adulthood.

In an increasingly interconnected world, the ability to comfortably connect with other cultures will become more and more important.

Some studies have shown that after two years of intensive immersion, when 90 percent of instruction will be in Spanish, students may not have the same language skills in their primary language as students who have not been in the program.

The studies specifically point to word recognition and sentence structure as two areas that immersion students show lower scores.

But further studies have concluded the knowledge gap is temporary and as they transition to instruction that increases the use of English, students quickly match the skill level of students who have only been taught in English.

There have also been concerns raised that immersion programs create a de facto segregation of students, and to a certain extent parents, and that immersion students will congregate with just immersion students, and vice versa in the non-immersion population.

The key in both language and segregation concerns will be how successful school administrators and teachers are in addressing the issues.

In part two, teachers express serious reservations about the proposal, and we detail how the student selection process will work.


  • Charles

    This program is just catering to illegal immigrants. This is AMERICA!!!!! If immigrants want to come here they can learn to speak ENGLISH!!! Not the other way around!! You are NOT going to force spanish down my kids throats just because you degenerate democrats want to line your voting booths with illegals. AMERICA FIRST!!!!

    Tuesday, Apr 17 @ 9:23 pm
  • Daniel

    This is absurd!

    Tuesday, Apr 17 @ 9:36 pm
  • Bobby

    Charles is exactly right. These immigrants make no effort to speak English. So a bunch of people using your tax money are going to make kids learn Spanish. Why not take a survey of taxpayers who are paying for this and all the surveys they use to sell it with if this is what we want in school. We need to change what is being taught in school systems. Teens running a checkout can’t even make change.

    Tuesday, Apr 17 @ 9:49 pm
  • William

    Charles, Daniel, and Bobby are perfect examples of why Southern States get labeled as hicks and hillbillies. Please guys, turn off Fox News and think for yourselves for once. I on the other hand will be perfectly fine with a dual language pre-teen that is more well-spoken than most adults.

    Tuesday, Apr 17 @ 10:43 pm
  • Daniel

    William there is no need for name calling. Just because you are fine with it does not mean everyone else is. It is hard for immigrants to assimilate and become integrated if they do not speak fluent English. We need to do everything possible to help immigrants assimilate to our society and part of that is making sure they speak English fluently. This program delays assimilation further and keeps immigrants segregated from the majority of the population.

    Tuesday, Apr 17 @ 10:59 pm
  • Michael

    I don’t like this at all

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 3:20 am
  • DanO

    I have come to believe that most educators don’t know that English is the bussiness language of the world. Why not immerse Spanish speaking students in English and spend tax payer money on teaching our children fundamental math science and history. China sends its students to America to learn English not Spanish.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 5:33 am
  • James

    Here are just a few of the cognitive benefits to learning a foreign language:
    the concept of “object permanence” develops at a younger age.
    better problem solving skills.
    better critical thinking skills.
    more creativity.
    better flexibility of mind.
    enhanced memory.
    better multi-tasking abilities.

    Don’t be short sighted and hamstring your kids because of some ideology.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 5:56 am
  • Joan

    What has happened to America and its school system? Feel sorry for the kids.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 6:17 am
  • Floyd


    Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Slandering anyone who disagrees with you seems to be the policy of the left.

    I’m not against the program but I respect and understand those that oppose it.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 6:42 am
  • Mike

    You are correct! Most students cannot use further and farther correctly. Let’s concentrate on having students master English first. Many of my friends, who immigrated here, have worked hard to learn to speak English.
    Yes, they keep their first language alive with their families, but they are very sure that success is in learning English. Poor grammar is something up that we should not put.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 6:53 am
  • Dave H

    Once again, the schools are proposing to waste further money on something that has NOTHING to do with actually graduating useful, productive members of society. One only needs to read a newspaper or online news report to realize that students aren’t currently learning to speak and write English properly, let alone being taught truly important subjects such as math and science. Once again, we cater to our immigrant population, rather than the native born.This is another big-government induced, feel-good program, designed to further separate America from her leadership position in the larger world. Three of four other posters have it right.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 8:01 am
  • Really?

    El Stupido! Ole William up on his high horse. MES is constantly one of the worst performing schools so sure now let them spend their time teaching something that is really not critical to learn. How about ENGLISH immersion and maybe MES could perform better being a large majority of the student attending are latino.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 8:15 am
  • Kevin

    Wow, these narrow-minded comments will only always be anonymous. But I can appreciate Daniel’s point. Who wouldn’t like the idea of expanding their kid’s knowledge? This is about forward thinking in a ever changing, cultural melting pot. Dare County education will maybe one day compete with Virginia schools.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 8:28 am
  • Rich

    Go ask Fortune 500 companies, Healthcare companies like Sentara and Technology companies about employees who are bilingual. They want more. Go to Europe and you will see that a great percentage of its people are multilingual. Teach them at an early age and they will thrive.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 8:52 am
  • Big Al

    @ Really?

    You could have benefited from these classes. El Stupido is totally wrong. it should be El Estupido but I guess you are too Estupido to know the difference…

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 9:25 am
  • OBX Resident

    Getting coffee this morning, I overheard Chief Manteo discussing the Spanish immersion program at our public schools with Chief Wanchese. They both journeyed to England on two occasions. On these trips both of the Chiefs learned the English language and the customs of the visiting English. They mentioned the debate on this board and were amazed by the ignorance of these ‘English’ language only individuals hiding behind the ‘this is ‘merica’ banner. They were laughing at the first post by Charles who stated:

    “This program is just catering to illegal immigrants. This is AMERICA!!!!! If immigrants want to come here they can learn to speak ENGLISH!!! Not the other way around!! You are NOT going to force spanish down my kids throats just because you degenerate democrats want to line your voting booths with illegals. AMERICA FIRST!!!!”

    These Chief’s jokingly said that if they had been as narrow minded as Charles, they should have forced the ‘Algonquian language down (Charles) kids throats’ and that of the English.

    The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all. John F. Kennedy

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 11:07 am
  • dave

    As many of you know, I’m left of center. This is stupid. Yes, stupid. English is the language of the United States. Should we incorporate French too?…don’t want to hurt any French kids feelings or make them feel left out. May as well make them learn German, Russian, Mongolian, or Somethingstan languages too. The Italian, German, and other immigrants had to learn English when they migrated to the US. Its ENGLISH!! Deal with it!

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 11:29 am
  • Concerned in Manteo

    Amazing to me how clueless people are, and so willing to make kids pay the price. It is proven that learning a second language helps intellectually and is challenging and fun for kids…many, many tests prove this. Open your eyes people…there are 40 million people in the US who speak Spanish. Kids learn and learn quickly. So sad to that so many are willing to fault people for coming here to get a better life. It is just sad that in DARE county which is about 90% white, so many are unwilling to promote multiculturalism and diversity. By bashing this….what you fostering is racism. Now is that a better lesson for kids???? So frustrated by what is going on around me. As usual, it is the adults that are the problem, not the kids. Poll the kids who welcome Spanish in their classrooms everyday, and see how many of them want to learn Spanish!!

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 11:35 am
  • SJ75

    Thank goodness this program is being run based on informed parent interest and not on ignorant internet comments.

    No one is being forced into this program. Schools had to have enough families sign-up for it to even run it. And guess what? There were so many families interested that they had to have lotteries at some of the schools.

    There is a ton of info about there if you want to really educate yourselves about how its run. The 50/50 model usually has a mix of both English and Spanish speaking families. While the 90/10 model (full immersion) has mostly English speaking families.

    Let’s try to keep up with other high performing counties and offer our kids some great OPTIONAL opportunities instead of leaving them in the dark ages.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 11:38 am
  • Sandy Ross

    I was really taken aback when I read these comments. Many of them seem to object based on the perception that it only benefits immigrants. Most colleges require at least a second language to be considered for admission. Some will look past not having a foreign language on entrance but require that a foreign language be taken before college graduation. Learning a foreign language as a child is much easier than when older. Not college-bound? Many professions that don’t require a college degree still require speaking a foreign language because of the type of business they conduct or where they conduct it. I would think that any parent of a school-age child would want them to get the most education possible so that they become a well-rounded person who can compete in a very competitive world. Who in their right mind would want to limit a child’s education just to make sure that it didn’t potentially benefit someone else’s child. That’s sort of mind-boggling.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 11:42 am
  • Jim watter

    I’m all for it the more language one can speak is a blessing being bi or tri lingule can only better your employment and future… We signed up our 5 year old and oh yea thanks for your taxes that helped make this happen lol that’s even if you pay taxes ………

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 12:00 pm
  • Czarina

    What most of you fail to recognize — or just don’t want to admit — white people will be a minority in the USA in YOUR lifetime. Further — in order to teach immigrants English, you need some way to initially communicate, hence by being bilingual, you can teach saying “adios” means “good bye.”

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 12:34 pm
  • Floyd


    Move back to VA. Problem solved!

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 12:38 pm
  • dave

    @ Kevin: As long as you want to expand the kids knowledge, why not teach them Chinese instead? China is probably the most advanced country in the world. Much more so than the Spanish speaking ones. Since its a technology driven society, forward thinking would want us to start 3rd graders out in Calculus to expand their minds….esp the left side of the brain. Immerse them in Differential Equations and Fluid Dynamics to give them really big brains! The biggest and mostest brains ever!

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 2:11 pm
  • Seal

    Go ask those Fortune 500 companies just how much business they do in third world Mexico !!!

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 2:15 pm
  • Jeff

    Very disappointing.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 2:54 pm
  • dan

    God forbid the schools are trying to do something that is proven to be good for kids and help them learn. Fox news must have said that educating kids is a liberal conspiracy.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 3:20 pm
  • Really?

    @ big al ever heard of sarcasm dimwit? Purposely said it that way , it’s America after all not trying to “immerse” myself. And ole @dave we finally agree on something and your comments are spot on pertaining to this topic.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 3:28 pm
  • YaBoy

    Yall are all framing out about “illegal immigrants” not speaking English even though they live in America. You try going and living in a non English speaking country after living your whole life only speaking English and see how well you adjust.

    But that’s not the point of this program, it’s to teach a second language. One that is also commonly used in America. What’s so wrong with that? What is so bad about expanding your knowledge. If you have ever met any of the foreign students who come to the beach to work in the summer, many of them speak 3 or more languages. One of the girls I met from the Ukraine spoke 5 languages, is majoring in Spanish at her university and still didn’t know why I thought it was amazing that she could speak 5 different languages, she said she wishes she could speak more of them.

    All in all, there is nothing wrong with learning a second language, or a third or so on. Being multilingual is not a illegal immigration issue, which by the way illegal immigration includes more than just “them damn Mexicans” lol.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 4:33 pm
  • Fred

    Get you heads out of the sand (there is a lot of it). This is a great idea. The more we all know about other languages and cultures
    the more tolerant and understanding we can be. Starting with kids is the right idea. Great job school board !!!!

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 6:36 pm
  • John Ehermagerd

    I find the lack of forward thinking among many of these posters unsurprising. Think of it this way – your child will now have an upper-hand in our competitive world as he/she enters the workforce already bilingual. They might go on to learn even more languages (sadly, not in Dare County Schools) giving them even more clout in the workforce. In the meantime, the lowly Spanish-only speaking kids will be left even further behind to work the menial (and disappearing) jobs most folks don’t want to do any way. Talk about your white privilege and you’re all complaining about it? This is a win, people.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 6:38 pm
  • James

    Slow down everyone. Did you even read the article? The school has not implemented anything…yet. They went to the parents, imagine that, and have received positive feedback. Take a breath and think for a minute. The school isn’t being heavy handed and there is no conspiracy.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 6:46 pm
  • Donna

    This is the USA!
    Teach our children to master the English language, because they sure haven’t so far.
    If we go to another country, we need to learn their language to survive and prosper. I wouldn’t expect otherwise.
    I am tired of catering to everyone else. Next thing you know, they’ll be changing the street signs to Spanish.
    This is another example of the watering down of America.
    Speak up parents…..have some backbone.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 7:03 pm
  • Bobby

    William, I don’t think all hicks live in the south. You might look around you. Are there any hills for hillbillies? Do you know where I live or is your mindset a little off? Schools are not teaching what tax papers want taught. Nobody asks them.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 8:51 pm
  • Ed Danko

    This is America and it’s time to put a stop to all this nonsense. These people are not immigrants, they are “Illegal Aliens.” Which part of “Illegal” do liberal Democrats not understand? It is also time to fire Dare County School Superintendent John Farrelly, which is exactly what I will work towards once I’m elected Dare County Commissioner. Farrelly also wants to ban the second amendment and confiscate all guns. Enough of this stupidity! Visit my website EdDanko.com and see where I stand on all the issues.

    Wednesday, Apr 18 @ 8:54 pm
  • Drama Free Zone

    So totally ridiculous to think that it might be important to start in elementary school, when developing brains can most quickly absorb and learn new things. Equally ridiculous to think we should keep pace with the huge percentage of countries in the world where almost everyone learns a second language. Then, to make the leap to an economic and/or socio-economic benefit from it is just absurd. I am simply appalled at the sheer volume of ignorance on display in the comments. Of what are you all afraid?

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 6:32 am
  • WombatNC

    @ ed Danko,
    Please, do us all a favor and go away! You wouldn’t know an illegal from a hole in the wall. Oh, and by the way, good luck with your commissioners race. Spend all the money you’ve got – you’ll need every cent of it. This is America, and from what I’ve read, the party to which you belong, is all about choices for their own child’s education. That’s what this is all about. No one is forcing this on anyone.
    And to the rest of you naysayers out there, evidence, I know that’s very hard for some of you to grasp (climate change, collusion, etc), points to the fact that students who complete this program perform better than their counter-parts who don’t. I for one, support having more bi-lingual speakers in our country. Once a person learns how to think, react, perform in/with more than one language, it makes it easier to learn additional languages. US corporations are clamoring for employees with skill sets like this, including the US military. The “America first, English only” mentality only moves us further to the back burner of the very competitve world in which we live.

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 7:32 am
  • dave

    @ Ed Danko: I”m guessing your ancestors came over and immigrated the “Old Fashioned” way…..they STOLE the land from the Indians by slaughtering them. That makes us all illegal. What part about that FACT of history don’t you understand? Further, most illegals were brought over and employed by REPUBLICANS so that they could have cheap labor and avoid paying taxes. Dude, did you ever pass a high school history exam?

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 8:14 am
  • Really?

    @ YaBoy ever wonder why all those exchange students with allll those spoken languages are here working in dumb old America? Well at least they can say ‘want fries with that?’ in five different languages. Everyone just regurgitating the some old sound bites. It’s going to enrich them, it’s going to make them critical thinkers, it’s going to make them compete with the world… Baloney! After all these years we’re still just the same old Americans who have been learning second languages for years. Why is only Spanish going to enrich students and not French, Chinese or Swahili? Who chose Spanish as the ‘enlightening’ language? I can guarantee you the majority of Americans do not need to know spanish to do their jobs but almost every hispanic needs to know english to do theirs, so you figure it out.

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 8:21 am
  • CorollaCap

    Everybody calm down. What’s wrong with learning? I wish I could speak Spanish. AND… the rep/dem thing needs to stop. Who cares? We’re people, and fellow citizens. Well, we used to be.

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 8:57 am
  • CorollaCap

    Furthermore, a human person can’t be “illegal”. Only actions can be called illegal.

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 9:02 am
  • Wendy

    A person is illegal if he entered the country illegally. Why Spanish? Native Spanish speaking natives is only 5.85% of the world population. Mainly Hispanic America, US and Spain. Being bi-lingual can be a advantage in those countries but not the world. We have a problem with some people coming here and never learning English. If you have courses that are 90% taught in Spanish, how will they learn English? Go to South America and their signs are not in Spanish and English, only Spanish. They expect if you live there you will learn their language. I had the opportunity to learn French in elementary school. This was taught as a subject like math, history. Why not just do that and especially not import teachers that will take someone’s job away.

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 4:37 pm
  • Ed Danko

    @dave: Yes Dave (why won’t you use your full name? Are you a coward?) as always you are simply guessing, and making stuff up, which is what wacko leftwing liberals like you do. My ancestors, my grandparents immigrated to America “legally” and they didn’t steal from anyone or slaughter anybody, especially Indians (like Elizabeth Warren!) They came to America legally and learned to speak English as fast as they could so they could find work, become Americans, and become successful, and I might add, very successful! Oh, and perhaps you might want to check and see how many “illegals” are working at Democrat Nancy Pelosi’s winery in California before you try to pin this problem on Republicans (her net worth is 29.3 million.) And finally, I’m sure I surpassed far beyond any level of education you ever even dreamed off!

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 5:50 pm
  • Floyd

    You’re going off the rails again. Simmer down.

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 6:01 pm
  • CorollaCap

    Danko is officially an out of touch !idiota¡.

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 10:32 pm
  • CorollaCap

    And Wendy. Soooo ignorante. Racist. Actually, you all are. And you don’t even know it. There’s a lot of racist people out there that don’t actually even know it. I’ll throw up.

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 10:38 pm
  • Brisleyni Montenegro

    You guys just depressed me. Is so simple if you do not AGREE take your kids to a different school and STOP complaining. By the way, learning a second language is a BENEFIT!!!! And children learn better if they get taught a different language at a younger age. Also, speaking a different language allows you to understand better another culture other than yours. If you guys haven’t noticed many people living in the United States are Spanish speakers and there is nothing you can freaking do about it. Have a GOOD NIGHT!

    Friday, Apr 20 @ 12:02 am
  • dave

    LOL @ Ed! I’ve used this saying before, but for you it’s especially true: I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know. I guess I’m not an inter net tough guy like you are. Try and use the left side of your brain a little. The original white people came here and stole the land from the Indians and slaughtered them in doing so. Since you enjoy riding on the “Whatabout Bus” like all you retro-thinking conservatives;, whatabout Trump and all his illegals, or Romney and all his illegals, etc, etc. Romneys net worth is $250 million, Trump maybe a few hundred million. Btw, I think Pelosi’s net worth is more than you stated. Another BTW, I’m not an idiot like you and use my real name here. And so what if Elizabeth Warren has some Indian in her. Without the Indians, the white folk here never would have made it. Get out of your conspiracy cloud and search around in Google for some FACTUAL information. It’s ok when you find out things (many, many things) that go against your paradigm and incorrect facts; they won’t bite you. Oh, and check your bush’s when you go home; you might find an illegal or terrorist waiting to gitcha! Lol!

    Friday, Apr 20 @ 9:08 am
  • Wendy

    CorollaCap..you are quick to call names. Tell me which statements that I made are racist and ignorant(which you spelled wrong). I love this country because we have the right to state our views. You seem to have a problem if someone’s opinion is different than yours. So then they are racist,ignorant or idiots? I am not against a second language being taught as a subject. I agree with teaching 90% of the day in that language. Why Spanish and not German or French?

    Friday, Apr 20 @ 12:29 pm
  • John Ehermagerd

    Have any of you visited Ed Danko’s website?? I just finished browsing it. Notably, he supports offshore drilling and armed teachers for our district. He’s also a name caller.

    Seriously Dare County – we ~need~ to put a more educated, enlightened & forward-thinking person in office. This Ed guy represents all that’s terribly twisted & wrong with the U.S. political scene in 2018.

    Ed – just because you’re louder doesn’t make you right.

    Friday, Apr 20 @ 2:10 pm
  • Wendy

    The number one language spoke by more people then any other language is Mandarin. So why not that instead of Spanish, if the reason is to make our children able to go out in this world with a advantage?

    Saturday, Apr 21 @ 1:56 pm
  • Michael Gaskill

    I see some school board seats becoming vacant soon. This is the stereotypical liberal philosophy, create a new problem and ignore the current one. Spanish is great to learn , but let’s master basic English and math first .

    Tuesday, Apr 24 @ 10:50 pm
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