I can't help noticing letters to the editor regarding the school district's decision to cut the foreign language teacher-based classes and replace them with a computerized language program.
I believe a very practical solution is possible. If discussions haven't already taken place, the school district should initiate them with Colorado Mountain College. The opportunities rooted in such a joint venture can be spectacular.
Colorado Mountain College has the ability to enhance their language program and expand it clearly beyond the Conversational Spanish I, II, and III and several ESL classes listed in its 2012 summer class schedule. A creative approach by the school district could not only save, but enhance their language program.
A joint venture between the college and the school district is nothing new. There are various projects and educational programs jointly administered by the two entities today, and frankly, that cooperation has existed for many years.
I was a director of Colorado Mountain College between 1970 and 1985. We worked with the school district during that time on a variety of cooperative efforts, including the Eagle County Adult High School program when Leonard Hammock was superintendent of schools.
Dick Malmgren, then principal of Battle Mountain Junior-Senior High School in Minturn, allowed adults to attend several classes during the school day. It was not uncommon for Barbara Parker, June Simonton or Helen Kidder to sit in on Ruthann Montano's senior high art classes in the mid 1970s. Both the kids and the adults enjoyed the experience, and I was always impressed by the easy way they interacted in the classroom.
Beverly Christiansan taught and mentored a variety of young high school-aged women who had become pregnant but were still in search of a high school diploma. These sessions grew to include the fathers-to-be with the intentions of building a sense of mutual responsibility between the newly forming families. Bev knew how essential it was for the young couples to learn how to be responsible in rearing the new children while at the same time keeping them on track to accomplish their degrees, to learn practical life skills and to successfully plan beyond their current
These are not easy economic times in the country, which every worker in Eagle County understands. But it seems to me this is an ideal opportunity for the school district and the college to explore how they might best work together in a cost-effective way to establish a language program which would not only be mutually beneficial but might also extend its reach to adult learners and students from private, religious and charter schools as well. Such a program might also be developed into such a successful endeavor it could eventually attract language learners from well beyond the borders of Eagle County.
During my time at CMC, I received recommendations from many in our communities to establish a language institute. While we had many successes - the Summervail Art Workshop, fire science technology, the dance program, manpower training and development, outdoor education and recreation among them - but we never managed to develop a solid, functional language program.
It seems to me the time for such a program offers itself now. The language resources in the county are plentiful between current teachers, skilled part-time adult teachers, citizens with strong backgrounds in various languages and existing teaching aides - i.e., computer programs, textbooks, classroom spaces - and most importantly, a desire by learners of all ages in the county to study and understand a variety of foreign languages. It's a perfect time to recalibrate thinking.
Foundation and business resources exist today that simply were not available to us 25 or 30 years ago. My bet is some of these resources would be interested in supporting a cooperative, inclusive, well-reasoned and financially responsible plan for a new and innovative language institute in Eagle County. It is certainly worth a try.