Ceres' newest school said welcome and bienvenidos to its first students, who will speak English half the day and Spanish the rest.
Lucas Elementary Dual Language Academy started Wednesday with 90 kindergartners and 90 first-graders. It will add a grade each year through sixth grade, when about 630 students will traipse the halls.
"Learning a new language takes some time, and with our students, it will be no different. That's why we are asking our parents to commit to the program for at least five to seven years to see the benefits of a dual-language education," Principal Israel Gonzalez said.
Those benefits include higher scores in upper grades than students taught all in English, research shows.
"We are excited to see how well our students will do when they are in the secondary level, or better yet, when they're in college," Gonzalez said.
Dual-language programs in Riverbank, Turlock and Patterson have shown strong results and draw strong parent support. Modesto City Schools has dual-language classes at Fairview and Bret Harte elementary schools.
The $24.4 million Lucas campus was built primarily with state funds. Parents had to choose to send their children to the bilingual program and provide their own transportation.
"We had numerous parents asking if we planned on having a dual-language academy. Because of those requests, it seemed a natural way to go," said Ceres Unified Superintendent Scott Siegel.
There are lots of advantages for students learning in two languages, Gonzalez said. "There are more career opportunities, lower dropout rates, biliteracy in two languages, appreciation of other cultures, higher interest for college, and more," he said. "Why would you not give your children those opportunities?"