Dual language immersion program brings beloved Alhambra Catholic school back to life

All Souls World Language Catholic School is the only Catholic school in the U.S. to offer a dual-language immersion program.
ALHAMBRA, Calif. (KABC) -- An Alhambra elementary school that was closed for two years for a lack of students has come roaring back to life by offering a unique way of teaching.

All Souls World Language Catholic School is the only Catholic elementary school in the country to offer a dual-language immersion program featuring Spanish and Mandarin Chinese for all of its students.

Now, 12 years after the Archdiocese of Los Angeles shut the school down - and 10 years after it reopened as a language immersion experiment with just 20 students, All Souls has a waiting list and draws TK through 8th grade students from 65 different zip codes.

Next year's enrollment is expected to be 394 students.

"(Students) spend 50% of their day in the English language and 50% of their day in the target language," explained principal Maria-Elena Navarro.

Navarro said so many parents want to get their kids into the school that it is now expanding, building a $7 million, two-story addition that will provide more classrooms, labs and other amenities.

A big draw, Navarro said, is the Mandarin immersion program.

This is the first year the school has seen more applications for the Chinese language track than the Spanish track.

Many parents recognize the importance of being able to communicate in a bigger, more global economy.

"The goal was that my children be able to speak three languages and speak with 90% of the world," said Tony Pa, whose son is enrolled in the school's Mandarin track.

Patricia Fan's son is also studying Mandarin at the school and sees it as a way for him to stay connected to his ancestry.

"As an Asian American, I really wanted my child to be in an environment that really cultivates that and encourages our heritage and our language," she said.

For more information, visit All Souls World Language Catholic School website.

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