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Spanish for pre-K

Preschool pilot proposal would cost over $100K

October 19, 2011 - Along with gym and music, Clarkston elementary-school students could soon learn Spanish.

"One of my long-term objectives is to increase opportunities for foreign language for students to be bilingual when they leave us," said Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock, Oct. 10.

A proposed World Language pilot program starts with half-hour Spanish classes once a week for Clarkston pre-school students.

Cost for the first year is $50,000-$56,000, including $2,000 for site visits and development time, and $44,000-$54,000 for teacher salary and benefits, along with iPad and other materials.

The plan is set for a vote by Clarkston Board of Education, Oct. 24.

"In the next month of so, I'd like to get the person hired and starting to develop the program curriculum," Rock said.

"I'm excited about the possibility of world language at the elementary level," said Daryl Biallas, Clarkston High School world language coordinator. "It's something we've been missing the boat on, getting students proficient in a second language at an early age."

The school's mission includes making students effective communicators in both oral and written form, Biallas said.

"What better way to produce effective communicators in today's global society then learning a second language," he said. "We're called upon to engage students in a global manner."

Learning a second language also improves English literacy and other skills, he said.

"It gives brains a boost," he said.

The money would come from the early childhood budget.

"I believe an elementary world language program would be wonderful for our children and our district I just want to be sure that we can fund it for the long term," said Trustee Rosalie Lieblang.

The program would start with pre-schoolers at Early Childhood Center, second trimester, 2012 school year. It would add a grade each year until 2015, when it would be preschool-fifth grade.

If the entire six-year pilot program is adopted, it would cost about $725,500.

They would use information learned from the program's first year to tailor it for Clarkston students, he said.

"We'll have real data from our own students," he said.

If successful, it would be expanded to include more languages, students, and class time, he said.

Biallas said the K-5 program would equal about a year of high school language instruction.

"But they're so much younger so they can pick up things so much quicker," he said.

Administrators visited World Language programs around the county, including those offering Chinese. A survey of Clarkston parents showed a preference for Spanish, Rock said.

"We've talked about this for years and years," Hyer said. "We've been so busy reacting to what the state does, it's good to see someday has arrived. I commend Dr. Rock for coming up with a creative way to implement this within our means."

"The number one goal is for every student to come away learning some Spanish," Biallas said. "In the spring after we've done the pilot, we'll have all the information we need to see what a great thing this is for Clarkston."

McGinnis said it could boost enrollment at the Early Childhood Center with parents ECC enrollment, parents not want see kindergarten behind.

"It's a win win for both programs," she said.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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