Catholic diocese inaugurates the first bilingual school program | news/arlington


The Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington’s first effort in bilingual education may be a harbinger of things to come.

The diocese will offer its first-ever bilingual education initiative when St. Ambrose Catholic School in Annandale launches a program for kindergarten children in the next school year. In the years to come, when these children have completed eighth grade, every student in Annandale Parish Primary School will be taught in English and Spanish.

The Office of Catholic Schools joined Pastor St. Ambrose, Father Andrew Fisher and Principal Maria Tejada to unveil St. Ambrose’s Dual Language Program (DLP) in conjunction with the Boston Two-Way Immersion Network Middle School. The St. Ambrose program will provide literacy and content classes in English and Spanish to all kindergarten students starting this fall.

The DLP will expand each year at the higher level until each level offers instruction in English and Spanish.

“We are honored that St. Ambrose School is the first school in the diocese to implement this bilingual program,” Tejada said. “We are also excited about our plans to one day offer a bilingual experience to every student enrolled in our school.”

St. Ambrose will teach math and science in Spanish and social studies and religion in English. Language arts will be taught in English and Spanish. All specialist courses – such as technology, library, physical education, art and music – will be taught in English.

“This new two-way immersion program further enriches that experience for St. Ambrose students,” said Joseph Vorbach III, superintendent of schools for the diocese. “Their spiritual and academic formation will take place in an environment in which they will also develop bilingual, bilingual and cultural awareness skills to help them communicate more effectively in an increasingly globalized world.”

Although this is a first for the diocese, it may only be the beginning.

“In our increasingly diverse Northern Virginia environment, it’s conceivable that other parochial schools would consider bilingual immersion in English and Spanish like St. Ambrose, or English and another language,” Diana said. Sims Snider, assistant director of communications for the diocese, in response to a Sun Gazette inquiry.

“The St. Ambrose effort is, in a sense, a pilot,” she said.

The educational bona fide of St. Ambrose is strong; the school was named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the US Department of Education.

It is part of a diocese that has 37 parochial schools (K-8), one “virtual” school, four diocesan high schools, five independent Catholic schools and three autonomous preschools (not linked to a parochial school), serving more than 16 800 students.

For more information on Catholic schools in the diocese, see the website at

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