The Rancho Santa Fe School District Board of Trustees will continue to gather information on adding Spanish back to the K-5 curriculum. Superintendent Lindy Delaney said the question is not about the benefits of foreign language for children, of which there are many, but finding the room to add it without subtracting from reading, writing, math, social studies, science lab, PE or student electives, just to name a few.
“We’re in a tough situation where our days are full,” Delaney said. “The teachers think (foreign language) is a value, but they don’t feel like there’s anything they want to take out of the schedule to put it in.”
The discussion was prompted by parent Linda Leong, who in October 2014 came before the board with a petition signed by 60 people to request Spanish be returned to elementary schools. She returned to the Jan. 8 meeting having gathered 117 signatures from elementary school parents.
To really make sense, Delaney said,the program would need to be offered four days a week, kindergarten through second grade, for 30 minutes a day, and at fourth and fifth grades, for 40 minutes a day. The program would cost $200,000 to $250,000.
Trustee Todd Buchner asked why it wouldn’t be possible to scale back to offering it two times a week rather than four, as other private schools in the area opt to do.
Delaney said in her experience, when they offered Spanish just twice a week, teachers reported that students didn’t have any mastery or retention — every year they were starting fresh.
“It felt like we were appeasing parents and checking the box that we offered it, but it didn’t really help the students,” she said.
If they did add Spanish back, Delaney said they would want to do it right, meaning offering it four times a week. The challenge again is where those minutes would come from.
Before 1997, Spanish was offered in middle school only. But when the RSF Endowment was established, then-Superintendent R. Roger Rowe pushed for Spanish to be provided to grades K-6. In 1998, students K-6 were in Spanish three times a week for 30 minutes, but there was not a lot of carryover into middle school.
In 2001, Spanish was reduced to just twice a week, and from 2002-04, it went down to one day a week for 45 minutes. In 2004-06, it was not offered at all for K-6, but was brought back in 2007-10 as an elective class for fifth- and sixth-grade students.
At its peak in 2009-10, there were 14 students in fifth-grade Spanish 1A and 20 in sixth- grade Spanish 1B, but those numbers dropped to seven in fifth and eight in sixth by the following year.
The district provides space for a before-school, parent-paid Spanish program, but there was not enough interest this year to form a class. Only four parents signed their children up for the class.
“There’s no new data that indicates we need to make a shift here,” Buchner said.
The trustees grappled with the fact that a petition has signatures from 110 parents who want Spanish taught, but yet only four signed up. Trustee Marti Ritto suggested that maybe they could find a way to fund an after-school program, like robotics, or before school like the music offering.
The trustees weren’t yet ready to make a recommendation to Delaney on Spanish and requested more information be brought to the February meeting.
“It’s still intriguing to me to figure out a way to deliver this program for folks that want it,” RSF School District Vice President Tyler Seltzer said.