Steamboat Springs elementary school students will continue to receive Spanish instruction after a narrow School Board vote approved partial funding for the popular program.
The School Board voted 3-2 to approve a $10,000 gift from the Education Fund Board that will be used to help fund the $30,000 a year program. Parents at Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools provide the bulk of funding for the program.
As in past years, School Board members disagreed about whether the program should continue. School Board President Paula Stephenson questioned whether having third-, fourth- and fifth-graders spend 20 minutes of class time twice a week learning basic Spanish was the best use of their time, particularly in the absence of an articulated K-12 district foreign language program.
Board member Pat Gleason, who like Stephenson, voted against accepting money to fund the program, said he won't support the elementary Spanish program until the district develops an articulated foreign language program that spans all grade levels. He also refused to support the program without evidence that it's a worthwhile use of class time.
Board member Michael Loomis said he could attest to the success of the program after he took his daughters to Mexico during spring break and they were able to communicate with many of the residents there, including other children.
"I was really amazed with what my kids could do in communicating with people in Mexico, and that was just with the limited amount of Spanish they have," Loomis said.
Shocked that the district doesn't require its students to fulfill any foreign language requirements to graduate, board member Jeff Troeger said the elementary Spanish program is a step in the right direction.
"This is a first step," Troeger said. "You start in elementary and build momentum for it."
Loomis, Troeger and Tami Havener voted in favor of accepting the $10,000 gift from the Fund Board.
The elementary school Spanish program began in February 2003 after parents approached the district with an idea for a program that would introduce basic Spanish language to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. District officials supported the program as long as the district didn't have to pay for it. Parents have continued to provide most of the funding for the program and have received financial assistance from the Fund Board in each of the past three years.
Parents recently organized a fund-raiser for the program that reportedly generated between $25,000 and $30,000. Havener pointed to the dedication of the parents as a sign of the importance of the program. Stephenson said it's not the community's or Fund Board's place to drive district curriculum.
The School Board also approved 13 other monetary gifts from the Fund Board totaling more than $1.8 million. That money will be used to fund small class sizes, an English as a Second Language teacher, a data warehousing system, new computers, a summer reading program for elementary students and three new school buses, among other things.
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