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Some Catholic grammar schools on Long Island begin program that teaches students both English and Spanish

Long Island Catholic grammar schools start program teaching English and Spanish 02:03

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. -- There used to be 92 Catholic grammar schools on Long Island.

That number has slipped to 31 and on Monday parents and teachers told CBS2's Jennifer McLogan about a bold plan to go bilingual one grade at a time, beginning at age 4, that has revived two parish communities.

To save struggling Catholic schools, the Diocese of Rockville Centre has a plan to turn them into dual-language schools.

"The mission of the school is so beautiful and I think it's catching on," said Dr. Valerie Serpe, head of Our Lady of Guadalupe School.

Six months in, Serpe says Our Lady of Guadalupe sister schools in Central Islip and Deer Park are suddenly thriving with waiting lists for nursery and pre-K.

A student named Alana told McLogan she enjoys speaking in English and Spanish.

The Roche family speaks Haitian-Creole and English. Now, son Cedrick is bringing home Spanish.

"A lot of opportunity for him in the future," mother Berlyne Roche said, adding when asked if her son will be trilingual, "Oh yes, he will. That's fantastic."

"I think it's great. It's the perfect time to start. Usually, the younger you start, the more that they retain the information," nursery and pre-K teacher Celica Villegas-King said.

Boston College and Notre Dame are providing support for the program and the Marianist Brothers are leading the revitalization efforts at Catholic grade schools on Long Island.

Chaminade's president, Brother Thomas Cleary, is spearheading the effort in the elementary schools, starting from the bottom up and adding one grade at a time.

"And eight years from now we will have students graduating who are absolutely fluent in two languages," Cleary said.

There is help for tuition in the form of $6,000 per year, which includes before- and after-school care.

"It's really appreciating all children's cultures and embracing who they are," said Joanne Kramer, principal of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In our globalized world.

"You look at the news today in the Ukraine, they're speaking English. Right? So we need to raise children who are multi-lingual and that's we have going on in the schools right now," Serpe said.

They are learning in faith how to live in peace.

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