Red Deer Public students will be saying ‘hola’ in Central Alberta’s first Spanish bilingual program starting in September of the 2012-2013 school year.
Offered to kindergarten and Grade 1 students, the new program will run out of G.H. Dawe Community School. Somewhat similar to a French Immersion, students will study in Spanish 50 per cent of the day, and 50 per cent in English.
In French Immersion students typically study in French 70 to 75 per cent of the school day.
“While there may be some kids that take this program that are native Spanish speakers because we have a lot of Spanish speakers in Red Deer, what our best hope is we get lots of kids that are just native English speakers that are interested in learning a second language,” said Stu Henry, deputy superintendent.
“You just can’t drop them in at the Grade 5 level. It’s a provincial curriculum that you know has a continuum that starts at kindergarten and goes all the way to Grade 12 so really we need kids that are starting at the beginning of that continuum.”
The district currently offers Spanish as A Second Language Programming at Hunting Hills High School and Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School.
The long-running Hunting Hills’ program has 140 students registered this year. The Spanish program was introduced at Lindsay Thurber this year, and has roughly 200 students enrolled.
Henry said the success of the newly-implemented Lindsay Thurber program is one indication there is a need in the city.
“In the most recent census for Red Deer, Spanish was listed as the second largest language spoken at home,” said Henry.
“We’re putting the program at G.H. Dawe. The census also indicated (in) the catchment area for that school, we have about 200 native Spanish speakers that live in that area so we think it is a really good location and convenient community school for them.”
Henry said this is the way French Immersion started in schools, and he hopes the Spanish program follows suit.
The district’s board of trustees gave the luz verde or green light on the program Tuesday evening at its regular board meeting.
Edmonton and Calgary’s public and separate school districts offer similar Spanish bilingual programs.
“I think Red Deer district has always had a history of being the frontrunner in providing quality education for the kids,” said board chairman Lawrence Lee.
“This program will establish truly Spanish bilingual program starting in kindergarten, Grade 1 and building upon that year to year to see how successful we will be going forward that way.”
The program is geared for both native and non-native Spanish speakers.
The steps ahead for the district include research on best practice for the program (for example, which subjects to offer in English and or Spanish) and hosting information evenings.