Foreign language may one day be taught in kindergarten through 12th grade in Columbia County schools if the recommendations of a committee charged to study the issue are implemented.
The Comprehensive Foreign Language Committee - comprised of educators and parents - has been meeting since September to study the issue of teaching foreign languages in Columbia County Schools. Nettie Engles, a committee facilitator and the school system's executive curriculum director, presented the committee's recommendations to the board at a meeting Tuesday night.
Among the recommendations was that foreign language should be taught to all students in kindergarten through fifth grade for 30 minutes daily.
"The committee agreed that every child should have the opportunity to study foreign language," Engles told the board.
The committee suggested beginning at the kindergarten level and adding a grade each year. Depending on the availability of personnel, the committee recommended that schools teach Spanish or French.
The committee supported using the Elementary School Foreign Language model, a state piloted curriculum for foreign language that is now being used to teach students Spanish at Stevens Creek Elementary and South Columbia Elementary schools.
At the middle school, the committee suggested offering foreign language as a nine-week connections class in the sixth grade with an emphasis on conversational speaking. Foreign language, the report states, should be offered in seventh and eighth gradesduring the connections block as a yearlong course.
The two years would be the equivalent of the first year course offered in high school and a student could receive one unit of credit for completing those courses. However, students also wishing to take band or chorus and a foreign language in seventh and eighth grade would have to get a waiver of physical education requirements.
In high school, students will be encouraged to enroll in a minimum of two years of the same foreign language. They also suggested the development of a conversational foreign language program for vocational/technical students.
"We should continue what is currently being offered, but expand the languages being offered and consider a conversational, work-based foreign language course for vocational/technical students," Engles said.
The committee also established priorities for the implementation of their recommendations. First on the list was the continuation of the middle school foreign language program in the seventh grade that began this year and the addition of the eighth grade program.
Second on the list was adding foreign language instruction in kindergarten, then adding a grade at the elementary level through fifth grade.
"I know there are going to be some concerns," School Superintendent Tommy Price said. "The first think that jumps out at me is the physical education requirement."
Price said to continue the middle school program as recommended by the committee would take 4.5 more teachers and to implement foreign language instruction in kindergarten would take 18.5 more teachers.
"It won't take long until you are talking about a considerable undertaking," he said. "Do we offer French, Spanish, where are we going to find these teachers? But the committee has done what we asked them to do and their recommendation is that we provide a solid offering of foreign language consistently across the system."
Price said the central office staff will study the committee's report before he brings his recommendations back to the board. The recommendations will likely be considered as the board begins the process of developing next year's operating budget.
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