Saline Area Schools students will begin learning world languages at Harvest, Pleasant Ridge and Woodland Meadows elementary schools next fall.
Steve Laatsch, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services, outlined the plan for introducing the curriculum at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.
Currently, Saline Area Schools begin learning foreign languages in seventh grade. A new world language and global studies curriculum is being developed now and will be introduced next fall and follow next year’s third graders to Heritage Elementary school in 2014-15.
By 2016-17, world language and global studies will be offered at every grade level in the district.
The district has formed a committee – dubbed the “Love of Language” committee, that is working to develop a philosophy, set goals, determine staffing, select a language, implement a schedule and budget, develop an evaluation process, and provide information to the public.
The Foundation for Saline Area Schools is raising $75,000 in support of the program. (Click here to donate the foundation’s campaign).
Laatsch listed the reasons why learning world languages is beneficial.
For one, Laatsch said, students learn foreign languages best when they learn them at a young age.
Secondly, Laatsch said, students who can communicate on foreign languages will have advantages in the job market – even if they remain in Saline, which is home to international companies like Liebherr and Faurecia.
“Our community is a global community and we want our students to go on and compete in the global community,” Laatsch said.
Laatsch said learning a foreign language strengthens cognitive skills. He noted that students who study foreign languages generally have hire ACT scores.
Laatsch outlined some of the resources that will be required. New curriculum, including textbooks and “eResources.” Staff training and development will be required. Some technology will be required, too, Laatsch said.
School board trustees commended Laatsch on his presentation and the program he outlined.
“I work for a global company based in France. It does business in 85 companies. We look for people who speak multiple languages, whether they are in technical positions or sales positions,” Trustee David Holden said. “Understanding a second language opens opportunities.”
Trustee David Zimmer said he believed the well-designed program will have a great outcome.
The committee designing the program includes Laatsch, principals Betty Rosen-Leacher, Brad Bezeau, and Michelle Szczechowicz, Pooh Corner director Su-Fen Lin, Spanish teacher Mark Messmore, French teacher Jamie Aumend, and students Delphanie Wu and Ben Herrick.
Foundation for Saline Area Schools trustees Annie Balasz, Reid Paxton, Rob Dawid, Pam Dahlman and Abha Wiersba will rotate on the committee. Community members Mary Kay Deese, Brenda Spears-Mania, Patti Tanner, Lynelle Morgan and Barb Cornish and Eastern Michigan University world language professors Coral Lopez and Rosemary Weston-Gill are also on the committee. Maria Coolican, from University of Michigan, and Irma Torres, from Oakland County ISD are acting as consultants.