Kaneland considers middle school Spanish course

By on February 14, 2014

KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on Monday listened to the possibility of incorporating Spanish in Harter Middle School next year.

School Board member Peter Lopatin expressed his enthusiasm for the idea of having foreign language at the middle school and beyond, and also noted interest in “working for immersion in the elementary school.”

Students had the opportunity to take an exploratory Spanish course before 2009 on the old Meredith Road middle school site. However, it ended as a result of budget cuts.

According to a report by Erika Schlichter, director of Educational Services 6-12 for Kaneland, an administrative team identified the need to explore having a middle school world language curriculum.

“This need was identified based on student interest, increased rigor in the KHS course sequence, best practice in language acquisition, and collaboration with our comparative districts,” Schlichter stated in the report.

Thirty districts had been surveyed. The report noted that 21 district offered AP Spanish and had offered the language in middle school or earlier.

“This data indicates that a middle school program in language is a fairly standard component of a course sequence that culminates in AP language,” Schlichter stated in report.

A proposed model entails that students could take Spanish 1 during seventh and eighth grade. If they complete the course, they can then move on to Spanish 2. Students could take fifth-year AP Spanish by their senior year.

The courses would mean a need for funds to pay up to two full-time Spanish teachers. According to the report, one full-time teacher is estimated to cost $50,000.

In addition, the seventh-grade books and workbooks are estimated to cost $15,000. The next year, those seventh-graders going to eighth grade would need materials that could cost another $15,000.

School Board member Tony Valente said that he is “behind it,” noting that students get higher ACT scores when they take the language.

Board member Pedro Rivas advocated having an immersion Spanish class. Rivas pointed out that his high school son, who takes Spanish class, is frustrated because he cannot fluently converse in the language.

Michelle Jurcenko, department chair of World Languages and a Spanish teacher, pointed out that a big component of colleges is the grammar.

“They have to read it and write it,” said School Board President Cheryl Krauspe. “Along with speak it.”

No action was taken after the discussion. However, the Spanish concept could come back to the board later this month via “budget process,” with final approval in March.

Story updated 1:38 p.m. CST Feb. 14, 2014