CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — O.B. Gates Elementary School is a national leader when it comes to teaching world languages — it’s the first elementary school in the country to offer American Sign Language (ASL) as a dual-language immersion program.

It is also the first school in Virginia to offer Mandarin Chinese as a dual-language immersion program.

Students learning American Sign Language at O.B. Gates (Photo by Chesterfield County Public Schools)

With the program, half the class is taught in the target language, while the other half is taught in English.

Mandarin Chinese learning materials (Photo by Chesterfield County Public Schools)

“They’re both one-way programs, so that means 50-percent of their day, which is the math and science, is instructed in the target language,” O.B. Gates principal Giuliana Brink said. “But what we’ve done, in our student learning, is integrating small groups and reinforcing the literacy block with the target language so we can increase some of the skill levels and close some of the gaps due to the pandemic.”

Principal Brink said she is trying to add a Spanish-immersion program next. Parents can choose to enter their child in a lottery for ‘dual-language immersion” during kindergarten registration.