The LaGrange-Brookfield District 102 Board of Education is considering expanding its foreign language offerings in its elementary schools and at Park Junior High School. The district, which includes Congress Park School in southwestern Brookfield, is collaborating with the Rosetta Stone company to offer its sixth-graders a choice of four languages to study.
Students in kindergarten through fourth grade get an introduction to Spanish with an emphasis on culture. In fifth grade, students will study three different languages with the help of the Rosetta Stone computerized learning program. In the first trimester, fifth-graders study Spanish; in the second trimester they choose between French or Italian; in the third trimester they take German.
Much of the fifth-grade instruction is computer based.
Then sixth-graders will choose one language to study throughout their two years at Park Junior High School.
In French and Spanish, Park Junior High students will cover the Lyons Township freshmen-level language class content in two years. Completion of two years of French or Spanish at Park Junior High will allow students to receive credit for French I or Spanish I at Lyons Township High School without taking the freshmen level class in high school. Students who study Italian or German at Park will not be able to receive high school credit for their work at Park Junior High.
This year, 53 percent of District 102 sixth-graders are taking Spanish, 17 percent German, 16 percent Italian and 14 percent French.
The Park Junior High foreign language department expressed concern to the school board about the expansion of language instruction at Park Junior High hurting the French program.
“Our main concern is our excellent French program,” said Vicki Nemickas, a Spanish teacher, who spoke on behalf of her department. “We want to make sure we’re focusing on quality, not quantity.”
If the program is implemented as planned, the district will have to hire a German and Italian teacher at Park Junior High, since the junior high currently only teaches French and Spanish. The additional costs for next year, if the program is adopted, are estimated to be $18,000 to $26,000.
“I love the idea of expanding choices, but I’m worried about the cost,” said District 102 school board member Dawn Aubert.
At the Sept. 26 school board meeting where the world language program was discussed, the school board unanimously approved a budget for the current fiscal year that forecasts a $1.3 million operating deficit, down from a $3 million deficit last year.
In the elementary schools the district reduced the amount of Rosetta Stone homework this year to 30 minutes a week from 60 minutes last year, because parents said the Rosetta Stone homework was causing too much stress when it was added to regular homework and outside activities.
Rosetta Stone was introduced to fifth-graders in the district in 2012. Last year, all fifth-graders used Rosetta Stone to study their three foreign languages. Next year Rosetta Stone will be used to supplement foreign language instruction at Park, if the school board approves the proposal.
The Rosetta Stone company has selected District 102 as one of two model case studies to be presented at this year’s conference of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Parents can learn more about the proposal at a parent info meeting on Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Park Junior High learning resource center, 333 N. Park Road, LaGrange Park.