HICKORY, N.C. -- Hickory Public Schools is launching its first dual-language immersion program for kindergartners in an effort to grow the students' academic, social and cultural skills.

The program was developed after administrators converted Southwest Elementary School into a kindergarten through second-grade primary school, focusing exclusively on reading, writing and math literacy.

Kindergartners in the voluntary dual-language program will alternate the days in learning the same class concepts between English and Spanish.

Claire Rose will be teaching classes in English while Elizabeth Frye, who was born in Costa Rica, will be teaching classes in Spanish.

"The students are excited, the parents are excited [and] the grandparents are excited," Rose said.

"We're very excited," Frye added. "We share the same goals."

School principal Stephanie Dischiavi said the program formed after a high demand from parents, partly due to increasingly competitive college admissions and work environments.

Researchers believe the best time students for students to learn new languages is around ages three to six years old.

"They're already on the pathway to becoming 21st-century learners and leaders at age six," Dischiavi said.

The program will grow as the kindergartners move up grade levels.

It's voluntary and the school still has open slots. Dischiavi however, said the goal is to eventually have all students participate in it.