AUSTIN (KXAN) - Central Texas is becoming more diverse each day as families from around the world move here.
The changing demographics are apparent in classrooms across Austin. Currently, there are 86 different languages spoken at home, according to the Austin Independent School District.
The top six are Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, Burmese, Korean and Chinese.
None compare to the growing number of Spanish speaking students -- school officials say there are more than 27,000.
Over the last several years, AISD has built a learning environment they are proud of. Classes at some schools like Perez Elementary are split down the middle with English and Spanish speakers.
The official term is two-way dual language. There are also one-way dual language programs where classes full of all Spanish speakers are learning English.
In both cases, students are learning to speak, read and write a second language while continuing to improve their native language.
"You don't want them to lose that language, and for many years through history, kids were losing their first language," said Olivia Hernandez, AISD Director of Bilingual and English Language Learners.
In the last two years, a new dual language program has emerged in North Austin to support another growing immigrant population: Vietnamese.
The program, serving more than 200 children, is in its second year at Summitt Elementary. The goal is still the same -- to help students graduate bilingual.
"My native language is Vietnamese so when I first came over here to the states in 1975 had there been a dual language program for Vietnamese, I would still be able to speak my first language," said Tina Dong, AISD World Languages Instructional Coordinator.
Research shows that teaching students to read and write in their native language first helps them learn a second language faster.
Time is critical because teachers have to prepare students to take the state tests, written in English, by third grade. But teachers are thinking far beyond that.
"We know to prepare our kids to be successful in the business world they need to know more than one language," said Dedra Standish, Interim Principal and Summitt Elementary School. "Europe is trilingual, we're still trying to catch up to bilingual."
This is part one of a two part series on the language programs offered in Austin elementary schools. Part two focuses on a Chinese pilot program that launched recently in an AISD elementary school.
More than 100 trees covered in lights now shine bright throughout Zilker Park. The Trail of Lights is open for another season.
A 10-year-old was killed while standing outside of a vehicle which lost control during the icy conditions, DPS said.
Travis County non-profit Center for Child Protection will benefit next March from an all day fundraiser at the Circuit of the Americas that will see plenty of donors racing on the track.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg heads to court this week as a defendant in a civil trial that could oust her from office.
Santa visited Austin early on Sunday, joining hundreds of motorcyclists for their annual Toy Run.
Late Saturday night into early Sunday morning, a light band of freezing drizzle traversed the I-35 corridor eastward. With sub-freezing temperatures, even the light precipitation created major problems.