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School board will look into language immersion

Some parents hope that someday their children will be able to learn Spanish and Mandarin Chinese in Lake Oswego, and the idea has gained enough momentum that the school board has agreed to look into it.

Earlier this month, the board heard recommendations from the Program Committee to improve existing services and explore a variety of new opportunities - a list of suggestions that now includes studying the possibility of implementing a language immersion program at the elementary level.

'The importance of language instruction is something we all agree on. The question of how to get there is something that will take a great deal of time and study before we come to an action to get there,' said board chair Linda Brown.

The recommendation came after 68 parents of both current and future students signed a petition this winter asking the district to seriously consider the option. Now the list of names has grown to 90.

Some of those parents are willing to move to Portland to be able to send their kids to Ainsworth Elementary in Southwest for Spanish or Woodstock Elementary in Southeast for Chinese.

But for Sarah Howell, a parent of future Forest Hills students, she plans on being very involved in getting a program started here.

At the end of May, Howell handed superintendent Bill Korach a 15-page proposal of a personal study that she did on the feasibility of the program in Lake Oswego.

The proposal is modeled after a Minnetonka, Minn., program that was implemented last year and includes information from Portland's programs, contacts from Oregon universities on recruiting teachers and expected costs and benefits.

'The political will exists to get these programs up and running,' said Howell.

Her comments at the June 3 meeting were followed by comments from 13 others - some of who come from diverse backgrounds themselves either having grown up overseas or working with businesses worldwide.

'That was some of the most compelling testimony we've received on our board,' said member Bill Swindells.

Brown emphasized the fact that the idea is in the earliest stages. 'We don't want to do something that is going to be a drop in for the kids. We want to take the time to make sure that we do it right,' she said.