Schenectady County

Niskayuna schools consider teaching pupils languages

Niskayuna students as young as kindergartners could be taking foreign language classes in the com


Niskayuna students as young as kindergartners could be taking foreign language classes in the coming years.

A district committee is studying that possibility now, with an eye toward a recommendation in January.

For now, committee members are gearing up for visits of other districts where K-12 foreign language programs already exist, to see how they work and how they could fit into Niskayuna.

“We are cautiously optimistic about the future of [elementary foreign language] in this district,” Edward Alston, district director of foreign language, told the school board last weekt.

One of those visits was scheduled for last Tuesday, with Alston and board member Robert Winchester, also a committee member, visiting the school district in Glastonbury, Conn., and its 35-year-old program.

The committee has been meeting for about a year, after Superintendent Kevin Baughman asked for the issue to be looked at.

Niskayuna’s current foreign language program runs from grades six to 12. There is an after-school program for elementary students, but there have been no formal classes in the district for at least 30 years, officials said.

Alston gave board members a packet containing a detailed accounting of the committee’s time, including a committee-generated list of reasons for having a elementary foreign language program.

The 16-point list includes cultural openness, marketable skills and encouraging lifelong learning.

Alston also recounted a visit by Guilderland’s foreign language supervisor Al Martino, whose district has a young elementary program itself. Martino brought along a video of a first-grade language class.

“It was very moving,” Alston said. “Immediately, people felt that this is something that could work in our district.”

Alston said he sees the committee making a recommendation in time for the 2009-2010 budget talks.

Categories: Schenectady County

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