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Spanish immersion preschool planned for St. Thomas in St. Paul Park

Foreign language integration is growing in elementary and pre-kindergarten classes throughout the country. In the metro, there are more than two dozen Spanish immersion programs offered at various education levels. Mis Amigos Spanish Immersion has three locations in the Twin Cities and is hoping to add a fourth in St. Paul Park.

The Church of St. Thomas Aquinas was approached by the all Spanish-speaking program earlier this year as a possible candidate, Business Administrator Cheri Dixon said, and it was an opportunity she said the church did not want to pass up.

"This will be completely separate from the church," Dixon said of the potential pre-kindergarten and child care facility. "It would start small, but we hope to grow it."

The tuition-based immersion program is taught completely in Spanish and would use part of the church's 10,000-square-foot rectory space.

The program at schools in St. Paul, Hopkins and Minnetonka filled up so quickly, Dixon said a waiting list prompted a parent to get in touch with St. Paul Park.

"This is a great program for these children because they are like sponges," Dixon said. "They say that anything you learn before the age of 5 becomes second nature. They would be able to speak the language without thinking about it."

With the school still in permitting stages, Dixon said tuition rates are still undetermined. At the other three locations, half-day preschool ranges between $500 and $675 a month, depending on how many days the child attends the program. Full day preschool costs roughly $220 to $260 a week, depending on how many days the child attends the program.

Proposed at the St. Paul Park location will be a Spanish immersion program for preschool-aged children as well as younger child care. The church submitted a conditional use permit application last month requesting a one-year lease with the anticipation of signing a multi-year lease thereafter.

The St. Paul Park Planning Commission will review the application and proposed project at its regular meeting at 7 p.m. June 10 and a public hearing is scheduled for the City Council's regular meeting at 7 p.m. on June 17.

"Mis Amigos Spanish Immersion program's motto is 'Bringing the World to our Children,'" Dixon said. "They believe in bringing this culture to the younger children so they know other languages and there is a big demand for it."

If the permit is approved, Dixon said the immersion program could open enrollment as early as this fall.