Changes planned for school's Spanish program

Since it was launched in the 2017-18 school year, Grand Haven Christian School’s Spanish Immersion program has grown from one classroom of 20 kindergarten and first-grade students to 59 students in preschool through third grade.

Changes are coming to Grand Haven Christian School’s Spanish Immersion program.

As the third year of the program gets underway this fall, a preschool program for 4-year-olds is being added.

Since the program was launched during the 2017-18 school year, enrollment has grown from one split kindergarten and first-grade class of 20 students to now four classrooms spanning preschool through third grade with 59 students, said Heather Grisales, the school’s Spanish Immersion program director.

The new preschool class will be offered three days a week for half days. If parents are interested in a full-day preschool program, children can participate in an English program in the morning, stay for lunch and have Spanish in the afternoon, Grisales said.

With the new school year starting Aug. 26, there’s still room for enrollment in preschool, kindergarten and first grade, Grisales noted.

Another change coming this year has Grisales stepping into the role as program director. She will oversee student assessments and provide a support system for educators. She previously served as the kindergarten and first-grade teacher for the program’s first year.

Educational support for students who aren’t yet achieving at grade level will also be added this year. Those students will receive an intervention like students in other programs, Grisales said.

Throughout the year, educators will also do more collaboration with the Spanish Immersion program at Muskegon Christian School.

GHCS students will also be more involved in the community. Kids in grades 1-3 will perform dances and songs during the first-ever Hispanic Heritage Fiesta on Sept. 28 in Grand Haven’s Central Park. Grisales said they wanted to be part of the community and let the Hispanic community know that their program exists.

In the past two years, GHCS officials have noticed that students are comfortable with Spanish. Grisales said students and parents have also embraced the timeline of when English can be used in the classroom.

There were many reasons why Tim Annema and his wife, Beth, opted to have two of their sons enroll in the program, he said. The program is another way they can enrich their children’s education and it introduces students to various cultures around the world, Annema said.

Annema’s oldest son was too old for the program when it started, but his youngest son will join it when he’s in preschool.

When the Annema family recently traveled to Washington, D.C., one of their sons interacted with a Spanish-speaking vendor at a market and inquired what she was selling and the cost, Annema said.

By participating in the program, Grisales said they hope students achieve at or above grade level in all academic areas, achieve a high level of language development in Spanish and English, gain a cultural appreciation, and have the ability to share their faith in both languages.

In the coming years, the school plans to add grades to continue up to eighth grade, depending on staffing, Annema said.

“We’re looking forward to continue to add to that,” he said.

Anyone interested in enrolling or learning more about the Spanish Immersion program can call Grand Haven Christian School at 616-842-5420.

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