A new foreign language program will operate at Haverhill High this year, but middle school students will be the ones taking advantage of it.
The high school is starting a pilot program which allows 25 middle school children to take a foreign language at Haverhill High. If all goes well, Superintendent James Scully said he hopes a full foreign language program will be implemented at all middle school for the 2013-2014 school year.
The middle schoolers participating in the program all volunteered to be part of it last year. Each student is bused to Haverhill High to take the class each morning at 7:30 a.m. and is returned by bus to their respective school at 8:15 a.m. for the start of the middle school day.
Scully said 16 middle-schoolers will study Spanish and nine will study Italian. High school foreign language teachers will be teaching the classes.
“The whole intention is rather than bring a full-time language program to the middle schools, we want to see how this works and what the interest is and if the money is available we will expand it,” Scully said.
Foreign language has been absent from the middle school curriculum in Haverhill since 2002, when it was eliminated along with woodworking, technology and home economics. Budget cuts were to blame.
While foreign languages were officially gone from the middle schools during the last decade, students still had a chance to get a taste of other languages through an after-school program in 2009. A group of Haverhill High students volunteered to teach 250 middle-schoolers so they could learn the basics of certain languages. The program wasn’t a substitute for a traditional foreign language class, but instead was an introduction that would better prepare the middle-schoolers for classes they would have to take in high school. That program disappeared over time, however.
Scully said it is vital for foreign languages to make a return to the city’s middle schools.
“There are two reasons why it’s important,” he said. “The research shows that students acquire language at a younger age. The second thing is that the world is a much smaller place than it was 15 years ago. The schools have to make sure that we prepare students the best way that we can for that shrinking world.”
Despite the lack of foreign language classes in the middle schools, Scully doesn’t believe Haverhill High students suffer from a lack of background when trying to learn another language.
“I think they do very well,’’ he said. “I’m very surprised at the success.’’
This year’s pilot foreign language program consists of 19 students from Consentino School, three from Nettle Middle School, two from Whittier Middle School and one from Hunking Middle School.
The program was organized by Dr. Mary Malone, assistant superintendent for curriculum in Haverhill public schools.