A new dual-language preschool has opened its doors next to the Mount Baker light rail station, the first in the city to offer instruction in both English and Vietnamese.
The Hoa Mai Vietnamese Bilingual Preschool is part of a program approved by voters last year aimed at making high-quality preschool available to all Seattle children, regardless of income. It also fulfills a dream of Vietnamese-American parents who wanted to maintain their children’s ties to their language and culture.
“We are really grateful that Hoa Mai exists,” said Vu Le, whose son, Viet, attends the school, which opened its doors two weeks ago. “There’s only so much that I can do to teach him Vietnamese. It takes more than just one person. He needs to learn in a structured environment where he’s surrounded by people speaking the language.”
Other programs offer weekend classes in Vietnamese, Le said, but Hoa Mai is the first to offer an all-day option.
Two of Hoa Mai’s classes, for 3- and 4-year-olds, are part of the Seattle Preschool Program (SPP). The school also offers toddler class for 2-year-olds who aren’t old enough for the city-sponsored classes. Tuition is on a sliding scale tied to family income (The application guidelines are here.)
This is the first year of the four-year SPP pilot program approved by voters, with 280 students enrolled in 15 locations around the city. By the final year, the city expects to enroll 2,000 children in 100 classrooms. It also hopes to add bilingual programs in other languages, most likely Spanish and Chinese.
“There’s a dramatic amount of research about how great bilingual programs are for kids,” said Rachel Schulkin, the SPP community outreach manager. “They help kids develop higher cognitive skills as well as better math and social skills.”
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