The Orange Board of Education (BOE) had a long discussion Monday night regarding eliminating Spanish classes for first and second graders.
During her “Superintendent’s Report” Orange School Superintendent Lynn McMullin suggested not filling the seat of a retired Spanish teacher and cutting back on the class as an option for first and second-graders.
She justified her recommendation by stating that studies show that 20 minutes of Spanish once or twice a week in these lower grades does not make a difference, but when children get into third grade they would receive a longer class period and more time to learn the language.
She said researchers said children should start learning foreign languages by age 10 and be given 30 minutes a day three days per week — Orange offers 25 minutes per class.
Each school would have its own Spanish Teacher and the Board would not hire anyone to fill the position vacated by the retired teacher.
Colleen Murray, who spoke to Amity’s Spanish teachers in June, said, “When the Orange students arrive at the Amity Middle School, their language skills will be assessed so teachers will know whether or not the students are prepared for the upper grades when they leave the Orange elementary schools.”
Board Member Debra Marino said she feels its important to expose children to foreign languages when they are young and parents want their children to have the option of learning a second language too.
Board Member Keith Marquis said the Board should consider making the school day longer. Orange has some of the shortest school days in the state of CT. “We should increase the school day so students have time for lunch and recess and Spanish and math,” he said. “We need to take a look at the school day instead of taking away programs that make Orange what it is.”
Board Member Bobby Riccarelli said the plan for improving instruction time for the upper grades is not that significant. “It says here, two 30 minute classes for grade 3, that’s 60 minutes. Two 40 minute classes for grades 4-5 that’s only 5 minutes more than the 75 they are getting now.”
Marino disagreed that first and second graders can’t learn the language on such a short class period. “My son just got out of second grade, and he’s learned so much,” she said. “If the transition time between classes is a problem, maybe we should do something about that.”
Marquis suggested having the teachers move from room to room instead of the kids, Less travel time means more time for the teachers to concentrate on instruction.
Marino said, “Once it’s out, it’s out and I think it will have an impact on how the parents feel.”
Board member Jodi Dietch said her eldest son started taking Spanish in third grade and her other son took it from first grade on. “I’ve never seen a difference in their learning of Spanish. If we could have more math time I’d rather see that.”
Board Member Scott Massey said his son took it in first grade and it made him very interested in learning Spanish. “I think it’s more important to plant the seed in grades one and two than in grade three saying, ‘you’re going to do this.'”
Murray said the entire school could become involved by posting signs with Spanish Words in the cafeteria, hallways, etc. to help build literacy.
After a nearly 25 minute discussion, the board voted 5-4 in favor of keeping Spanish lessons in grades one and two and possibly expanding the time that it’s taught in the upper grades.
McMullin will post a job listing for a Spanish Teacher to fill the retirement vacancy today.
[Junta Escolar dice sí a español]