Pope John XXIII School. (Google Maps)

Pope John XXIII elementary school in Evanston is among eight Chicago area Catholic schools that will offer pre-Kindergarten instruction in an international language starting in the fall.

As part of a pilot program called Early Childhood Language Intensive Preschool, the eight schools will each offer 30 minutes to an hour of “intensive daily core studies instruction” in Spanish, Polish, or Mandarin Chinese, depending on the school. John XXIII will have its instruction in Spanish for three-and-four-year-olds.

ECLIP is targeted at children from households where English is not the primary language, or may not be spoken at all. According to a news release from the Archdiocese of Chicago, “learning two languages at a young age builds a strong foundation for students raised in non-English-speaking households and provides an excellent opportunity for those from English-speaking homes to learn about other cultures.”

The Archdiocese says ECLIP is drawing interest from parents who may have been reluctant to enroll their children in preschool due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Molly Cinnamon, principal at Pope John XXIII, says the program could help attract Spanish-speaking families who might not otherwise consider the school.

“We think this will allow Pope John XXIII to be more inclusive of our parish families, many of whom are from Spanish-speaking households,” Cinnamon says in the release. She says teaching the children math and reading in Spanish will help them in their native language as well as assisting them to understand the subjects in English.

The program was designed in cooperation with the University of Notre Dame. The Archdiocese says the goal is to expand the program to other schools as well as other grades in the future.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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