Spanish Bilingual program to begin in Red Deer

G.H. Dawe Community School may soon be home to a Spanish Bilingual program for students in Grades K-5.

Rob Porkka, director of international education for Red Deer Public Schools, said the program has already received a lot of positive feedback from community members saying it will be a welcome addition.

“Parents are realizing that with the global community as it is that any second language is valuable and with the ease of travel Spanish is becoming very important too for some career choices,” said Porkka.

A meeting was held Nov. 15 to look at the possible issues that may arise in the organization of the bilingual program.

“Some parents are concerned about the transportation within the City from the communities further from the school.”

A bilingual program is different from a language immersion program because students spend only 50% of their time in the language. Students in an immersion program spend 70% of their time or more in the language.

“It has been proven that the more you can offer the better but we have to be realistic about what resources are available. This will include Spanish language arts, mathematics and maybe social studies.”

Porkka said some of the other curriculum items are not available in Spanish but that “Whatever the language, it is better to start early.”

The bilingual program may start out as a small group, said Porkka. But he hopes that interest grows and more people become aware of the opportunities it will allow students. “We have a commitment from K-5 but would like to be able to continue right through to Grade 12.”

If there is enough interest the program will be expanded based on resources.

Currently there is a Spanish class offered at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School that has 200 students participating. Porkka hopes to gain this kind of momentum and interest with the Spanish bilingual program.

Registration for the program will open on Nov. 23 at 8 a.m. and Porkka said he hopes to be flooded with parents and students interested to try something new.

Not only does a second language open up career opportunities, it also enables students to evaluate and solve problems from two points of view, he said.

The program is not geared specifically to students without a Spanish speaking background. Students with some Spanish background are also welcome in the program and Porkka said any student is a welcome addition.

Porkka said the school board is very excited to be offering a program like this in the community. “One bilingual program or language will lead to improved capacity in third of fourth languages too if students choose to pursue that.”