In this post: A comprehensive list of FREE public and charter schools in San Diego County that offer Dual Language Immersion programs.

Dual Language Immersion programs are on the rise in San Diego County!

My son just graduated Kindergarten in a dual language public school. I am sharing how this bilingual education model works, and which schools offer the program in San Diego County.

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What is Dual Language Immersion?

Dual Language Immersion, or two-way immersion programs have been growing at an exponential rate in California.

The goal of Dual Language immersion is to provide students with high levels of academic achievement and biliteracy in English and Spanish while nurturing strong values and appreciation for cultural diversity.

Dual Language Immersion Models

There are different models but the most common is 50/50. The students receive 50% instruction in Spanish and 50% in English.

That means that half the day they are learning all their core subjects (Math, language arts, science etc) in Spanish and then they switch to English for the second half.

Most often they will have two teachers who are native speakers of the language.

There are also many schools that follow a 90/10 model in Kindergarten which provides a more immersive experience: 90% of the day is instructed in Spanish. Usually the gap closes to 80/20, 70/30 and finally 50/50 by third grade.

dual language immersion students

A Brief History of Dual Language Immersion

In 1998, Proposition 227 was passed in California. This act forced English-only instruction in schools for ESL (English as a Second Language) students.

The underlying message was devastating for many heritage Spanish speakers: Speak English, this is America. Since most of the Dual Language programs at that time were in place to support ESL students, bilingual programs diminished.

In the fall of 2016, almost 20 years later, Proposition 58 was passed by an overwhelming majority vote. This proposition is known as the ‘Multilingual Education for a 21st Century Economy Act’.

It allowed parents the right to choose their child’s language program and changed the way bilingual education was viewed.

The many benefits of bilingualism were finally recognized and parents were supported in preserving their native or heritage language.

Since then, Dual Language (or two-way) programs and Spanish Immersion schools have continued to open across the United States, but most rapidly in California.

DLI immersion San Diego

Seal of Biliteracy Award

The State Seal of Biliteracy Award, marked by a gold seal on a student’s high school diploma, recognizes academic achievement in two languages.

Students enrolled in Dual Language Immersion programs have the opportunity to earn this award, provided the criteria is met.

Related Post: How to Raise a Biliterate Child

Who are Dual Language Programs for?

DLI programs are for anyone who wants to become bilingual in two languages.

There are Dual Language programs available in other languages too, such as Mandarin Chinese. However, this post is specifically focused on Spanish and English programs.

Two-way immersion programs enroll both native English speakers and native or heritage Spanish speakers.

Usually schools try to balance out native English speakers and heritage Spanish speakers.

Usually the program also has students with a wide range of socioeconomic status. Again, it varies from school to school.

How to Apply for a Dual Language Immersion School

You may have a Dual Language program in your school zoning area. Oftentimes it is necessary to apply for an intra-district transfer, which is very straight forward (from one school within your school district to another). An example would be from Breeze Hill Elementary to Grapevine Elementary in the Vista Unified School District.

Sometimes an inter-district transfer is necessary (from one school district to another). For example from a school in the Vista Unified School District to a school in the San Marcos Unified School District.

You are not guaranteed a place and the programs are very popular. Sometimes schools will do a lottery if they are overwhelmed with applications.

It is not unusual to hear of students traveling up to an hour to attend these programs!

Are Dual Language Immersion Programs Free?

There are many tuition-free Dual Language Immersion programs available in San Diego County. They are offered in both public and charter schools.

Many schools are adding more DLI grades each academic year, but the vast majority of schools are still Elementary.

Related Post: Best Homeschool Spanish Curricula

dual language immersion schools San Diego County

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A List of Dual Language Immersion Schools in San Diego County

Please do not contact me regarding school applications or specific school information. I do not represent any of the schools below! I am just seeking to provide a helpful guide for other parents who live in San Diego County.

*This list was last updated May 2022. If you notice a school is missing, or any errors, please notify me through my Contact Form.

All schools are K-5 unless otherwise specified.

Some schools are One-Way meaning they teach 100% in Spanish. These are noted ‘One-Way’.

 Since San Diego county spans 4300 square miles (!), I have divided up the county into four areas: South Bay, Central San Diego, East County and North County.

South Bay San Diego

Located south of downtown San Diego and just north of the Mexico border.

San Ysidro Schools

Ocean View Hills Elementary (4-8)

Smythe Elementary

Sunset Elementary

Vista del Mar Elementary (K-3. Continues at Ocean View Hills).

Willow Elementary

Chula Vista Elementary School District

Arroyo Vista Elementary (K-6 Charter)

Camarena Elementary

Chula Vista Learning Community. (TK-12 Charter)

Clear View Elementary

Discovery Charter (K-6)

East Lake Elementary

Feaster Charter

Harborside Elementary

Hedenkamp (Anne and William) Elementary

Heritage Elementary

Lauderbach (J.Calvin) Elementary

Liberty Elementary

Loma Verde Elementary

Los Altos Elementary

Muraoka (Saburo) Elementary

Rice (Lillian J.) Elementary

Salt Creek Elementary

Silver Wing Elementary

Tiffany (Burton.C) Elementary

Valle Lindo Elementary

Valley Vista Elementary

Veterans Elementary

Vista Square Elementary

Sweetwater Union High

Eastlake High (9-12)

Otay Ranch High (9-12)

Southwest High (9-12)

Central San Diego

Located north of downtown San Diego and reaching up to where the 5 converges with the 805 in Del Mar.

San Diego Unified

Adams Elementary

Albert Einstein Academy (Charter K-8)

Balboa Elementary

Barnard Elementary

Boone Elementary

Burbank Elementary

Chavez Elementary

Cherokee Elementary

Encanto Elementary

Fay Elementary

Field Elementary

Gage Elementary (One-Way)

Golden Hill Elementary (K-8)

Juarez Elementary

Language Academy (K-8)

Longfellow (K-8 Magnet One-Way)

Muir Language Academy (K-8 Magnet One-Way)

Sherman Elementary

Tierrasanta Elementary

East County San Diego

Located east of downtown San Diego and most known for El Cajon and La Mesa.

Alpine Union

Creekside Early Learning Center (Kindergarten only, then transfer to Shadow Hills)

Shadow Hills Elementary (1-5)

Borrego Springs

Borrego Springs Elementary

Cajon Valley Union

EJE Academies (K-8 Charter)

Jamacha Elementary (One-Way)

Magnolia Elementary

Naranca Elementary

Lakeside Union

Lakeview Elementary

Lakeside Middle (6-8)

Riverview International Academy (One-Way) (Riverview Elementary)

Tierra del Sol Middle (6-8)

Winter Gardens Elementary (One-Way)

El Capitan High School (Also offering a GLLP: Global Language and Leadership Program)

North County San Diego

Starting in Del Mar and reaching Oceanside and Camp Pendleton.

Carlsbad Unified

Currently there are no dual language programs in Carlsbad. However, the International Baccalaureate is available at Jefferson Elementary.

Del Mar Unified

Ashley Falls School (One-Way)

Del Mar Hills Academy (One-Way)

Encinitas Union

Capri Elementary (K-6)

Paul Ecke Central Elementary (K-6)

JCS Cedar Cover (TK-12, TK-8 for Dual Language Immersion)

IB at Ocean Knolls Elementary

Escondido Union

Epiphany Prep (TK-8 Charter)

Farr Avenue Elementary

Glen View Elementary

Lincoln Elementary

Pioneer Elementary

Mission Middle School (6-8. Social studies and electives in Spanish)

Fallbrook Union

Maie Ellis Elementary (TK-6)

Oceanside Unified

Garrison Elementary

Reynold’s Elementary (TK-5)


Valley Elementary (TK-5)

San Marcos

Twin Oaks Valley Elementary (TK-5)

IB at La Mirada Academy

Solana Beach

Skyline School (K-6)

Valley CenterPauma

Lilac School (TK-5)

Valley Center Primary School (TK-2)

Valley Center Elementary School (3-5)

Valley Center Middle School (6-8)

Vista Unified

Alamosa Park Elementary

Dual Language Immersion North County (TK-8 Charter)

Grapevine Elementary

Hannalei Elementary

La Fuente (TK-8 Springs Charter)

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