What is dual language immersion?

Dual Language Immersion is a method of teaching a second language in which the learner’s second language is the medium of instruction, not the subject of instruction. Students develop high levels of speaking, reading, writing, and listening in English and Spanish. Teachers deliver the same Prince William County Schools curriculum content and standards as traditional classroom teachers, while providing instruction in two languages.

What are the long-term goals of the Dual Immersion Program?

  1. Develop bilingual and biliterate students
  2. Increase cultural sensitivity
  3. Enhance cognitive skills
  4. Improve self-esteem
  5. Higher achievement/performance on standardized tests
  6. Preparation for a global society and marketplace

What are the differences between the Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES) and the Immersion Program?

In an immersion setting, students learn the core curriculum through the lens of an additional language. In a FLES class, the language itself is the subject of instruction and the focus is basic oral communication skills in Spanish. FLES students spend 60-90 minutes per week learning Spanish as a second language. In immersion, instructional time in Spanish is over 13 hours per week. Immersion students develop higher competency in Spanish because, in addition to learning Spanish through content, they receive daily Spanish Language Arts instruction.

What specialized training do Immersion teachers have?

Immersion classroom teachers are required to hold a Virginia teacher’s license in elementary education. Our Spanish Immersion Teachers receive training through our partnership with Participate Learning.  

Who is eligible to apply for the immersion program?

The immersion program is open to all students. Incoming elementary school students may apply through completing a DLI application. The application window is from March – August of each school year.  Contact the school for a paper copy of the application or you can Apply Now. Enrollment occurs in Kindergarten or 1st Grade.

Are siblings of students currently enrolled in the program guaranteed a spot or given preference?

Yes, when completing the option application, families can indicate that they have a sibling currently enrolled in the program. Siblings of students currently enrolled in an elementary immersion program receive priority to allow siblings to attend the same school.

If my child is in the VPI program at an immersion school, do they receive priority when I apply to the program when they enter kindergarten?

Yes, students enrolled in the VPI program at an immersion school receive priority when applying for admission to the program when the student enters kindergarten.

Is it only for native English speakers?

This program benefits both Spanish speakers and non-Spanish speakers. Both groups benefit from the opportunity to become fluent in two languages, and to gain the proficiency and high levels of academic performance shown to result from immersion learning environments. All students learn a deeper understanding and appreciation for other cultures through dual language immersion, while learning Prince William County Schools curriculum.

If my child is a heritage Spanish speaker, will the program benefit them or delay their ability to learn English?

The program will benefit your Spanish speaking child while enhancing their ability to learn English. Bel Air E.S. dual immersion classes are comprised of a balance of Spanish speakers and non-Spanish speakers. Students spend a portion of their day in a Spanish-language classroom learning math and Spanish reading/writing, and the other portion of the day learning reading, writing, science and social studies in English. In Kindergarten and 1st Grades, students receive lessons from two teachers; one providing academic instruction in English, and the other providing academic instruction in Spanish. In 2nd Grade, students receive their lessons from one teacher who provides academic instruction in English and Spanish, on alternating days.

If my child is not a heritage Spanish speaker, can my child apply after kindergarten?

A student may apply after kindergarten, but they will need to demonstrate that they have participated in a comparable immersion program in another school division OR are proficient in Spanish.

Will my child be allowed to use their native language on days they are instructed in the “second” language?

Students will always be allowed to use their language of choice in social settings and emergency situations. However, to fully develop bilingualism the instructional language will be encouraged.

When/How will you determine if the program is successful?

Student progress is monitored consistently to ensure that all students are successful academically. Each student is assessed monthly using county and Spanish assessments (writing, speaking, listening and reading) to ensure content mastery.

Are there options for my child to continue through an immersion program in middle and high school?

Our feeder middle school, Hampton Middle School and our feeder high school, Gar-Field High School, will have a choice of electives in which they will be able to take a content subject in Spanish.

How will Gifted students be serviced in the Dual Language Immersion Program?

Students identified as Gifted will be served in the same manner as any other gifted student in Bel Air Elementary School.

What if my child has special needs?

Students in our Spanish Immersion Program have the same access to special education services, programs for the gifted, and intervention and tutorial offerings.

Will we have to remain in the program for the entire school year?

It is the goal that students remain enrolled in our Dual Language Spanish Immersion Program from Kindergarten through 5th Grade. A student is to be committed to our Spanish Immersion Program for a full academic year.

Will younger siblings of DL students be guaranteed a spot when they begin Kindergarten?

Our goal is to keep the families of students intact as they begin the Dual Language Spanish Immersion Program. Due to changes in enrollment and program demand, siblings are not guaranteed.

How is homework handled for parents who only speak their student’s native language?

Homework that is not in a family’s native language will only be sent home when a student can adequately complete it independently or with proper instructions for parents in the native language.

How does class size in dual language compare to all other classes?

Our K-3 grade classes are maxed at 22 students. This also provides the ideal structure of a Dual Language Spanish Immersion Program to accommodate an even number of Spanish and English students.

Will my child be fluent after 5th Grade, in the second language?

The expectation is that students who stay in the program will be fluent in both languages after the 5th grade, if not before.

Is there a possibility that PWCS will discontinue the program?

Prince William County Schools is committed to continuing this program.

Why is it important for my English speaking student to be a fluent speaker in his/her

native language?

Part of the program’s success for meeting the needs of second language learners is based on having strong language models. Students will be modeling for each other and working together to develop a second language.

Resources for Parents


What Does Research Say About Immersion?


Dual Immersion Blog:

Dual Language Immersion FAQs

How Dual Language Benefit English Language Learners