Elementary students in the Cedar Rapids School District will begin Spanish classes this fall.
Schools across the state have laid off teachers and Cedar Rapids has reduced dozens of staff positions. But Mary Ellen Maske, executive administrator for elementary education in Cedar Rapids, says the new program is a spending priority.
“We don’t often make decisions that everyone’s happy with, but things are changing so rapidly,” Maske says. “Our communities are becoming much more diverse. Our students are needing to market themselves in different manner and so I think having a second language will be very important to students that we’re educating in Cedar Rapids.”
The district will hire four new teachers to lead the Spanish classes for elementary students in Cedar Rapids. Maske admits the decision may not be popular.
“We have to make very, very many choices at all times about what programming we do in our schools and I don’t know that the teachers would always agree with the decisions that are made,” Maske says. “But we believe that the impact of this program will fit right in with our literacy and preparing students with the 21st century skills that they will need.”
While Maske says the district hasn’t had to cut any programs at the elementary level this year, the district is bracing for a more than $1 million reduction in general state aid for the next school year. No teachers in the Cedar Rapids District have been laid off thus far, as the dozens of layoff notices went to school support staff.