School adds Spanish lessons for the youngest of students - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

School adds Spanish lessons for the youngest of students

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Altoona (WQOW) - The new school year is two weeks away and with it will come a new course for young students in one district. 

Kindergartners will learn Spanish.

The new language program for kids K- 5 will be taught in Altoona.

Research shows a record 38 million people speak Spanish at home in the U.S.

The Hispanic population in this country has soared in recent years, but that may not be the key reason why Altoona is adding Spanish at such a young age.

Kindergartners through fifth graders in Altoona will be learning a new language this fall.

"I think it's a great thing that they're going to start out young all the way up into high school," says parent and PTO secretary Kelley Gaynier.

Spanish or Español in the native tongue should make it spark.

"Research has shown that students learn languages better when they're started at the elementary level," says superintendent Dr. Connie Biedron.

So the school board and superintendent have cast it into the curriculum for kids to have Spanish class once a week.

"It's expanding our offerings at the elementary.  So every student will have Spanish instruction.  It's on the same basis as Art and Music and Phy-ed are at the elementary school," says Biedron.

Some parents have expressed concern that classes will be dropped for Spanish, but the district says it won't take the place of anything. 

Instead, science, which used to be offered once a week, will now be offered daily and that opened up a spot for a weekly course.

"I have not heard any resentment against this.  I think it's a good thing and I've heard a lot of people happy that we're finally getting another language in there," says Gaynier.

"We did it because we feel it's the best thing, one of the best things we could offer our students," says Biedron.

The reason they're starting at the kindergarten level is because this first step in a child's education is when they can absorb language the best.

"Kids learn at a younger age on that kind of stuff and pick it up so much faster than you do at an older age.  So I think it's great that they're going to incorporate it all the way through so that the kids just get it and it's normal to them," says Gaynier.

An easy decision for some parents who say their kids are already exposed to another language.

"They watch Dora now as it is and pick it up so fast because they're so young," says Gaynier.

When we asked why the program is expanding, we were told the district wants students more advanced when they reach middle or high school. 

By learning one foreign language at a young age, it makes the process easier to pick up other languages later. 

When students reach sixth grade, they'll be able to continue with Spanish or chose from five other programs. 

The school also hired a new Spanish teacher to lead this language expansion.

As always, follow more news on Twitter @crusan_michael

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