School Board Approves Middle School Language Program

By On May 16, 2014

The Burbank Unified Board of Education approved a plan to implement one daily class in Spanish at each of the district’s three middle schools for the 2014-15 school year.

After a lengthy discussion, the Board ultimately all voted in favor of the middle school language program, 4-0, at the May 15 meeting. Board member Dave Kemp was absent.

BUSD logoEmilio Urioste, Director II of Secondary Education, presented the plan, which would draw from current high school Spanish teachers to lead the initial year’s classes.

One class, filled with 30-33 students, will be offered at each middle school. At John Muir and Luther Burbank Middle Schools, the class will start at 7:00 a.m. during the non-rotating zero period. Since David Starr Jordan Middle School does not have a zero period, the world language class is slated to begin at 8:00 a.m. for first period, the only non-rotating class of the day schedule.

The additional salary for these classes will cost approximately $120,000. The textbooks are the same Spanish I textbooks used in the high school classes and will cost about $18,000.

The year-long course would satisfy the course credit required for graduation from high school, according to Urioste, which will eventually require Board approval.

“We will see more students, as a result of this, be able to complete the A-G requirement,” explained Urioste.

While Board members agreed the plan was not perfect, after much discussion they agreed to see it as a first step towards complying with California Educational Code requiring foreign language courses be offered from grade seven through grade 12.

Depending on the level of student and parent interest and response to the pilot program, district officials are looking at adding full-time Spanish language teachers at the middle schools the subsequent year.

Many factors are in play to determine the number of full-time teachers and courses able to be offered in schools, including enrollment, availability of credentialed teachers and student/parent interest.

Board members Charlene Tabet and Larry Applebaum didn’t see the offered plan as the best use of funds, while they were very supportive of getting a middle school language program in place.

However, “if we’re going to do it, we have to take the first step or we’ll never do it,” said Board President Dr. Roberta Reynolds.

“It’s not an elective; it’s not a choice,” commented Tabet, referring to state law. “It’s something the kids are going to have to take.”

While a middle school language program hasn’t been offered for more than 10 years, all Board members agreed BUSD must develop the program.

Applebaum commented he’s heard from several parents with great interest in the program. The Board questioned what would happen if 60 kids, enough for two classes, at one school wanted to take the new Spanish I class.

“If we have a lot of interest, we’d bring it back to the Board with a proposal to create an additional class,” answered Superintendent Dr. Jan Britz.