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F-M takes first steps towards offering foreign languages to younger students

— For more than 40 years, the Fayetteville-Manlius School District has offered four languages (Spanish, German, French and Latin) beginning in eighth grade. But for the 2013-14 school year, for the first time, students are beginning their language other than English experience (LOTE) in seventh grade.

At the Nov. 4 F-M Board of Education meeting, the board began the process of weighing the pros and cons of offering foreign languages to both younger middle school students and pupils in the elementary schools. Board members learned that implementing a language in sixth or fifth grade would not be quite as easy as it was last year, when the district replaced a reading period with LOTE for its seventh graders.

“Right now, the fifth and sixth grade schedule is full. There would be no time in the day,” said Superintendent Corliss Kaiser. “We provide specials like technology and family and consumer science to our students and their schedules are full. I know everyone was very enthusiastic about moving forward with this, [until] we saw the schedule.”

Three F-M teachers worked on a LOTE presentation under the direction of Kaiser to come up with recommendations for the different options the district has. The team spoke with teachers and administrators at F-M as well as in districts similar to F-M in terms of state aid, tax base and common core scores to compile the report.

Amy Getman-Herringshaw, a sixth grade teacher at Wellwood who worked on the presentation, said that if the middle school schedule were to be changed, no current classes would be eliminated.

“We don’t want to cut any existing programs, we already have strong programs and our students do well in ELA and math,” she said. “If we were to redesign, it would have to be a holistic approach where everybody gave a little. It would require a team to look at other master schedules in terms of what similar schools are doing.”

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