Local News

School board considers cutting foreign language

By Curt Peterson

WOODSTOCK—Two important issues were among the many topics discussed by board members of the Windsor Central Modified Unified Union School District at the Woodstock Middle School Library May 13—elimination of language learning for Kindergarten through third grade, and a reduction in language lessons grades four through six, and Reading bus scheduling.

Two parents voiced concerns over the Spanish language changes, including scheduling only 30 minutes’ instruction per week for grades 4 through 6. Elementary School parent Jamie Ziobro read from a letter he had written to the board citing references attesting to the value of early language education, before age 8— training that would be missing under the recently published schedule for school year 2019-2020.

Another parent, Samuel Segal, supported Ziobro’s sentiment, saying early age secondary language learning is important.

Pomfret board representative Patti Kuzmickas also said that one class per week is insufficient.

Elaine Leibly is the primary language educator in the elementary school. She said she recommends no fewer than three language classes per week, starting as young as possible. One weekly class may be enough to introduce students to a different culture, but not enough to produce language proficiency, she said.

“Fluency comes with repetition,” Leibly said. “And one time a week just doesn’t cut it.”

Killington representative Jim Haff shared an anecdote about his daughter Meaghan, who became interested in language as a Killington kindergartener French was taught in the Killington Elementary School when Meaghan was there, he said. Now, she is about to start graduate school in Geneva. She speaks French fluently and is studying Arabic. Haff thinks language instruction in the early grades is important.

Haff is concerned, he said, because he first learned about the language studies change from Mr. Ziobro’s discussion, and not from Board discussions. Other board members expressed the same concern.

Jennifer Iannantuoni, also representing Killington, said a 2019-2020 budget presentation to the board in June included the language limiting proposal, noting some newer Board members had joined the group since.

The decision to cut language time responded to language committee recommendations, Iannantuoni said.

Haff told the Mountain Times he does remember Superintendent Mary Beth Banios saying the number of teaching positions was being reduced, but hadn’t translated that to mean elimination of the K-3 language classes and a reduction in lesson time.

“I asked to see the notes from the meeting when that decision was made,” Haff said.

Board chair Paige Hiller said she will distribute the language committee’s recommendations and parent’s meeting remarks with the board and elementary school parents.

Director of Finance and Operations Richard Seaman said he has met with a representative of Butler Bus Service, which provides school buses for the consolidated district. Seaman said the district is in the third year of a six-year contract with Butler.

A problem has arisen because of a daily schedule difference between the Reading Elementary School and the rest of the campuses in the district—Reading starts and ends its school day a half hour earlier than the other schools, necessitating adjustments in bus routing.

“An estimate of the cost of an additional bus would be $55,000,” Seaman said, implying this would resolve the scheduling problem. He added that the Butler people were very flexible and helpful in finding solutions whenever they occur.

Two Reading parents said they thought RES parents would support changing the Reading start and finish times to solve the problem.

Prosper Valley Principal John Hansen and Banios will conduct a survey of Reading parents to see what the consensus is regarding adjusting Reading’s schedule to match the other campuses/bus routes, and make recommendations at the next Board meeting.

Attempts to reach Banios weren’t successful.

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