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Principal: Parents like immersion classes

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By Don Pace

Los Nios Elementary students are excelling at their studies, school officials say. And the children continue to do well in the adequate yearly progress test as more parents request additional classes in the city’s lone immersion program, the officials say.

Principal Floyd Chavez told the Las Vegas City Schools board last week that everyone in the school is speaking more Spanish than ever and the program is so popular there’s been a lot of requests for more kindergarten classes. He said there are no longer any regular education classes at the school — it’s all Spanish.

“We had so many requests this year that we had to open a third kindergarten classroom,” Chavez said

Students entering the immersion program must start at the kindergarten level.

Chavez said Spanish is his love, so overseeing the immersion program at Los Nios is like a utopia for him.

“I grew up with it and to be in a situation where Spanish thrives is what I’ve always wanted. These kids are just blossoming — something I’ve always dreamed of seeing,” Chavez said.

First-graders in Bee Conway’s class come from both Hispanic and Anglo backgrounds and have settled into and become comfortable in the immersion setting.

“They speak Spanish, they read well, comprehend the material and are able to follow directions very well,” Conway said. She said when she began her teaching career, the bilingual teacher in charge told her that if one could learn two languages, he or she was equal to two people.

Conway said this is the perfect age to begin teaching kids Spanish. “It’s very easy for them to learn — the only thing that changes form English to Spanish are the vowels because the consonants stay the same.”

Student Jasmine Jaramillo said she loves her class because she has a lot of friends. She also said she spoke some Spanish before attending Los Nios.

At her age, Jaramillo already knows the value of being bilingual.

“It’s important because you have two languages and you can speak when somebody asks you something in Spanish or in English.”

Chavez has taught Spanish for most of his career and remembers his days teaching migrant workers in California. He also taught at Memorial Middle School, where there used to be a department dedicated to Spanish. However, Chavez recalls most of the students from that generation were kids whose parents were chastised for using the Spanish language.

Los Nios currently has 185 students enrolled in its immersion program and students from both East and West Las Vegas are eligible to attend the school.