The Menlo Park City School District is working hard this year to achieve a goal it adopted in 2008: to offer world language programs to all district students.
Last year design teams of parents, educators and students from each school met at the Stanford Design School to create prototype world language programs to launch this school year.
At Oak Knoll, fifth-graders will boost their Spanish speaking skills prior to entering Hillview Middle School. The school eventually wants to offer the classes from kindergarten to fifth grade.
"Our goal is for everyone to learn a little Spanish," said principal Kristen Gracia. She said fifth-graders will receive consistent language instruction from a Spanish teacher, while all classrooms will offer at least some language experiences throughout the year.
Encinal and Laurel schools will have Spanish language instruction in primary grade classes not already in the Spanish immersion program. Principal Sharon Burns said Encinal's new "Spanish as a World Language Program" for kindergarteners "makes language learning a cultural adventure." She said students will have lessons focusing on the gradual development of listening and speaking, while fostering excitement toward language learning.
"This program supports all students, from beginners to heritage speakers," Principal Burns said.
Principal Linda Creighton said at Laurel, all kindergarten and first-grade students will learn Spanish, either in an immersion classroom or from a Spanish specialist teacher.
"The entire student body will participate in school-wide cultural events throughout the year," she said. She said that as the program expands, she "envisions a school where Laurel students learn more deeply about culture and language, which will strengthen their development as globally minded citizens."
Hillview Middle School will continue to offer both Spanish and French. Principal Willy Haug said Hillview students can take two years of high school level languages or choose to complete one year of high school Spanish over two school years.
In addition to these options, Hillview offers a Spanish for Spanish Speakers program to students who have either attended elementary school immersion programs or are native speakers.
Principal Haug said Hillview may add more world languages if there is interest. Last year, both Mandarin and Latin were given as choices, with the commitment to offer the one that received the highest registration if a minimum enrollment was reached. The minimum was not met for either option, however, so neither is offered. Principal Haug said the school will explore interest in Mandarin and Latin again for the next school year.
The district is also adding two Spanish speaking interns who will work in the Spanish immersion classrooms, with the elementary school Spanish language specialists, and in the Hillview Spanish for Spanish Speakers class. Two more interns will be added next year to support the growing world language program.
Superintendent Maurice Ghysels said "language learning can benefit all students." He said research shows language study can make reading easier and that language learners develop a more positive attitude toward the target language and those who speak the language.
"We are excited to build on the successful language programs that we already have, as well as provide more opportunities to celebrate, learn and open doors for all Menlo Park City School District students," Superintendent Ghysels said.