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Westside School District to Eliminate Elementary Spanish

Photo by Omaha World-Herald

Photo by Omaha World-Herald

Maddie Mollner, Staff Writer

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In a perfect world, people would be able to communicate with each other even with a language barrier. Unfortunately, this language barrier is extremely present especially between Spanish and English speakers. Most of the time, an introductory course to prepare students for the high school level and even become proficient in Spanish is implemented in middle school or as early as kindergarten.

However, there is a downside of teaching Spanish classes. Major funds are needed to keep a foreign language program a well-oiled machine. These funds may not be available to all school districts. Westside Public Schools has found recently that with tight funds, keeping a language program implemented can show to be, in the worst case, impossible.

The Westside district has had to make extreme budget cuts that add up to a whopping four million dollars. One of the eliminated programs was the foreign language department in the district’s elementary schools. I spoke with Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, Dr. Mark Weichel, on why these cuts were necessary and how they will affect the students of District 66.

I asked Dr. Weichel if the district was planning on replacing the foreign language program with learning software or any other techniques to keep the students from being deprived of Spanish altogether.

“It was something we talked about, but we eventually decided that it wasn’t worth the money,” Weichel reasoned. “We couldn’t find any concrete research that proved software to be more beneficial to the students.”

Weichel also stated that while it is important to teach foreign language to children of young ages, the rate at which these children were being taught would not strongly affect their advancement in Spanish.

“We would have to double or even triple the amount of time we were teaching Spanish to these kids in order to say that these cuts were making an immense impact on their education,” said Weichel. He also informed me that Westside Middle Schools begin teaching seventh-graders at the Spanish One level. That’s the equivalent of the class for an average freshman coming into Skutt Catholic.

It seems that these middle schoolers are still able to learn Spanish at a satisfactory pace without having been trained in the language for the previous seven years. However, it is undeniable that continuing to teach them beginning in kindergarten would definitely put them at an advantage.

“Language acquisition studies all seem to show language learning ability is easiest for young children and that the acquisition gets more difficult with age for most people. With this in mind, it is easy to see why elementary language programs are so important and necessary,” observed Mrs. Rachel Twist, head of the Spanish Department at Skutt Catholic. “Introducing a foreign language to children at a young age is extremely beneficial, especially if it’s in their interest to become fluent.”

“Obviously we couldn’t cut small things. We had to start with things that weren’t government-mandated,” stated Weichel. “And as difficult as it was, foreign language was the one that had to be cut.” Hopefully Westside students will continue to thrive in the subject of Spanish despite unfortunate budget cuts.

 

 

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Westside School District to Eliminate Elementary Spanish