Spanish curriculum has made a return to kindergarten classes at Russell-Tyler-Ruthton and Hendricks schools.
Superintendent Bruce Houck said that the intent is that Spanish will follow those current students in their educational journey each year in the future, along with introducing the curriculum to new kindergartners at the start of each school year.
Lynd School currently offers Spanish to its K-8 students, using two Spanish teachers in the district. One of those teachers, Claudia Gonzalez, has been providing Spanish to the RTR and Hendricks kindergartners through interactive television (ITV) technology this year.
"We'd been talking about increasing curriculum offerings, so we got the three boards (Lynd, RTR, Hendricks) together," Houck said. "It was decided that Spanish was one area that we could do and not have to move teachers around. And the curriculum will follow these kindergartners next year, too, so we'll be offering it to first grade and kindergarten next year."
Houck pointed out that recent scientific studies suggested that children have a deeper ability to acquire and develop language skills than adults.
"There is a critical period in human development when children are able to pick up new words and sounds in an almost effortless manner, irrespective of their primary language," he said. "According to eHow, it is also believed that learning a language enhances a child's cognitive development. This means that children who learn Spanish are likely to develop better critical thinking skills, as well as have more flexible and creative minds."
The elementary students are also able to speak the language without an accent.
"Up till fifth grade, they won't have an accent," Houck said. "That's a good thing. They'll sound just like a native speaker."
So far, things have gone well, Houck said, noting that there were three kindergarten sections at RTR and one at Hendricks.
"The kids have been enjoying it," he said. "It's fun to watch, too. It's quite a skill. We're really excited about it."
While Gonzalez teaches the Spanish curriculum, the kindergarten teachers at Hendricks and RTR remain in the classrooms to assist the students.
"Claudia is actually providing the curriculum to them," Houck said. "It's a new way to use the technology out there. And the kids get Spanish every day. Through ITV, everybody is getting access so that students have more opportunities. It's pretty neat."
Houck thought it had been about four years since Spanish was offered to elementary students in RTR and Hendricks. While a number of students have missed the curriculum in the early years, Spanish is expected to be offered to them as sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students.
Students can also decide for themselves whether or not they want to take Spanish in high school. RTR students currently receive Spanish instruction on-site, while Hendricks students are taught via ITV by the RTR Spanish teacher.
"Spanish is optional for kids at ninth grade," Houck said.
Houck noted that he's had a couple of former students come back and relay to him that Spanish came in handy out in the real world.
"A couple of students who were in the health field said that Spanish had been resourceful to them," he said. "They were able to converse with the people when they came into the hospital, so they didn't have to get an interpreter. So it's very valuable."
In their conversations, the board members found more than enough reasons to warrant offering Spanish in the future as well, Houck said, especially considering that the opportunity is known to open doors to learning in other subject areas.
"Learning a foreign language improves a child's general problem-solving skills, leading to a better understanding of math and a generally higher level of academic achievement compared to those who do not study a language," Houck said. "Learning Spanish could therefore have a positive impact on your child's performance in all subjects at school. That's exciting."