Eighth-graders at Dual Immersion say goodbye, scatter into high schools

Students perform in a mock trial in the eighth-grade class of Ryan McLaughlin and Jennifer Lundin as part of the Dual Immersion Academy. Sixth, seventh and eighth grades are held in a six-room wing behind Bookcliff Middle School. The bilingual academy started nine years ago, adding a grade each year since.

As other students race out the door this afternoon ready for summer trips and swimming pools, the eighth-graders at Dual Immersion Academy will likely share hugs and tearful goodbyes.

The bilingual school started nine years ago with a kindergarten class and a dream to teach students in English and Spanish. The school added a grade each year, and eventually grew this year to include a full elementary school campus in the Riverside neighborhood and a six-room wing for sixth- through eighth-graders behind Bookcliff Middle School.

There will be no Dual Immersion high school for students to attend next year, so members of the tight-knit class will splinter to join one of four local high schools. Students have plans to get together this summer for trips to the mall and Saturday barbecues, Dual Immersion eighth-grader Jose Gutierrez said.

The 14-year-old said he feels both nervous and ready to go to Grand Junction High School this fall, but will miss having all his 27 classmates in one building.

“We’re not just friends; we feel like a big family together,” he said.

Family is a word used frequently to describe Dual Immersion students and staff. Thirteen-year-old Bailey McCall, who has been with this year’s crop of eighth-graders since first grade, said cultural differences separated some students when they were younger. But those lines have blurred.

“We got to know each other during all the time we spent together in class and on field trips,” McCall said. “We learned even if we look different or sound different, we are all the same and want the same things.”

Seventh-grade teacher Delia McLaughlin said her students at Dual Immersion are “very accepting and very affectionate.” Sixth-grade teacher Jennifer Hoover said she expects today to be a difficult one when it comes to goodbyes, but she’s happy for the students, too.

“I’m excited for them to branch off on their own and become true leaders,” she said.

Sixth-grade teacher Monica Heptner said the school is unlikely to include a ninth grade any time soon because enrollment isn’t high enough for a high school, and budget constraints make it hard to expand.

She said the program always intended to go out at least as far as eighth grade because research indicates students are more likely to lose their bilingual skills if they stop learning in both languages any sooner than the end of middle school.


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