SAN ANTONIO -

At a time with many Catholic schools are struggling to keep up enrollment, St. Mary Magdalene Catholic School has had to add a new pre-k class to meet demand for it's dual-language program.

The program launched at the beginning of the school year, and administrators hoped it would pair a relatively new idea with a traditional Catholic education.

"That doesn't mean that cannot be innovative and be cutting-edge, and do it in a top-notch sort of way," said Bill Daily, principal at St. Mary Magdalene.

He said he had no idea parents would be so excited about it.

"We had about 15 to 20 additional students enrolling in those first two weeks, so we had to add an additional classroom and hire an additional teacher to accommodate the demand," Daily said.

"I think the community around here saw the need for it," said Janet Boston, whose son, Mason, is in a pre-k class.

The school chose to add the program, and Spanish in particular, based on what Daily calls the five Cs:

  • Cognitive - Research shows a bilingual brain is more flexible, creative and better at problem-solving.
  • College - Students who are bilingual do better on college entrance tests and acceptance.
  • Career - People who speak more than one language often have more opportunities and make more.
  • Culteral - The school saw a need to help some young children communicate with Spanish-speaking family members. For others the goal is to help them better understand a large part of the San Antonio culture.
  • Catholic - There is a long history of multi-lingual popes and priests.

Parents with children in the classes have been surprised by how quickly they've picked up Spanish.

"Before school, he was going to my parents' house and my parents spoke Spanish to him. He understood a little bit. of it, but I want him to pick up more. I want him to be able to read it and write it," said Boston. "Mason comes home practicing his days of the week, practicing his months, and he comes singing these songs ... they're Spanish songs."

The school plans to add dual-language to kindergarten next year, and eventually work up to eighth grade.

For a list of recent stories Jenna Hiller has done, click here.