Smaller Spanish classes wanted

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Having 46 children in an elementary Spanish class is too much for parent Bette Vandahl.

Especially, Vandahl said, if there is enough money for smaller classes.

Vandahl and other parents who spearheaded and raised funds for an elementary Spanish program will ask for smaller class sizes when they meet tonight with Steamboat Springs Superintendent Donna Howell.

Howell said that though she supports the program, it would be more useful to put any extra funds toward the creation of an articulated Spanish language program. In such a program, classes would build on one another from elementary through high school. That way, extra dollars would have the greatest impact over the long term, Howell said.

Vandahl, however, said that parents who have raised the money want it spent to offer their children the best Spanish program now possible. Their children could finish elementary school by the time an articulated program is in place.

Parent groups will continue to raise funds for the program by selling Safeway cards and through other fund-raisers during the year, Vandahl said.

Howell has heard from parents that the program is working well, and she thinks it may not be necessary to change the schedule and spend money to decrease class sizes.

The School District does not have funds available for an articulated program, so funding would have to come from the Education Fund Board, she said.

At Strawberry Park Elem-entary School, two classes are combined to learn with one Spanish teacher, but the teachers of the two classes also are in the room during the lesson. At Soda Creek Elementary, 1 1/2 classes are combined.

During public comment at last week's School Board meeting, Vandahl and several others voiced their concerns about the large classes. John DeVincentis, retired principal at Strawberry Park Elementary, said he previously requested smaller class sizes to provide more effective instruction.

Vandahl also said she thinks there are discrepancies in how much the school district budgets for the program and how much it spends.

Dale Mellor, director of finance and operations for the district, is reviewing the elementary Spanish teacher contracts to see if there are inaccuracies.

About $29,000 is budgeted for the program next year, Mellor said, which covers salaries, supplies and other materials.

Vandahl said she thinks the actual cost is a few thousand dollars less than that. And, she said she thinks it would cost a few thousand dollars above what is budgeted to pay the elementary Spanish teacher for more time.

Parents raised more than $30,000 last year in a fund-raising event, as well as another $10,000 to $12,000 from selling grocery cards, Vandahl said.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com

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