Following much research and careful consideration, the Great Neck Public Schools will not be offering a foreign language program in the elementary schools in the foreseeable future. At the board of education's Dec. 7 meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Sheila Terens reported that the committee addressing the program came to the conclusion that, while a foreign language would be a wonderful addition to the elementary curriculum, both the current fragmentation of the school day and the pressure of the new state mandates proved to be stumbling blocks to a new program.
Dr. Terens said that the committee has been working almost a year, exploring all aspects, conducting research, listening to consultants in other districts, and visiting other districts. Everyone on the committee was very much in favor of establishing the elementary foreign language program in Great Neck, according to Dr. Terens, but their concerns over fragmentation and mandates forced them to defer such a program at this time.
Dr. Terens spoke of the advantages of learning a foreign language at an early age---the ease of learning so young, learning skills that are developed, and an easier time learning yet another language later on. However, she also stressed that, at this time, many people in the district (staff, parents, and children) are also very involved in the new technology in the schools (computers), and there is now much ''anxiety'' over the new state requirements and assessments (new mandated testing).
As for the elementary schools, all have said that they could find time, but not enough time for developing a foreign language program the way they would want it developed in Great Neck. Dr. Terens said that at least three times a week would be necessary; the once-a-week programs she saw did not offer enough time for fluency development. Such a program, she said, should be ''continuous and in-depth.''
Again Dr. Terens spoke of the fragmented day full of so many pull-out programs---special services, gifted programs, art, science, music---all very valuable, very enriching programs. When it came to finding time for a foreign language, she said that ''nobody could find anything to trade off.''
At this point, Dr. Terens explained that the elementary schools could not establish a foreign language program without extending the school day. ''Maybe we will feel differently in a year or two (after the state mandates are in place),'' she said. And Dr. Terens promised that the district will continue to look for ways to deal with the fragmentation of the school day.
Board of Education Vice President Larry Gross expressed understanding of the problem, and echoed the hope for addressing the program again in the future. ''The district offers very rich and broad programs (in foreign language) at the secondary level,'' he said, stressing the ''scope'' of the secondary language offerings.
Mr. Gross also spoke of ''the world beginning to adopt a single language, English.'' He spoke of English becoming a universal language.
Board Trustee Barbara Berkowitz spoke of the changing population in the Great Neck schools. She said that so many children are already being pulled out of class for language---for instruction in the English language (TESL programs).
However, Trustee Mona Fuchs asked why Great Neck cannot teach foreign language to the youngest students while the rest of the world manages this task. ''It is important to look at this again,'' she said, adding, ''We (this country) are so behind.''
Regarding the TESL children, Dr. Terens did state that TESL children in districts with a foreign language program had no problem learning yet a third language.
Dr. Terens also said that, when considering an elementary foreign language program, the district had been considering Spanish as the one language to teach at this level. She said that there are already elementary school enrichment classes (before school) for Spanish and French.
Superintendent of Schools William Shine stated that the district will ''eventually have to come to grips with the length of the school day.''
''There is something wrong when we cannot offer something we believe in,'' said Dr. Shine.
Also at the Dec. 7 board of education meeting, Dr. Jack Kamins, district director of pupil personnel and psychological services, was appointed assistant superintendent for psychological services and special education.
Other issues addressed at the meeting included the following: a report on the September to June, 1998-1999, school district recreation program; the proposed organization of the summer 1999 recreation program; an update on the Long Island Expressway construction; and a report on year 2000 compliance (computers).
All of these topics will be the subject of upcoming articles in the Great Neck Record.