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EUSD program helps junior high students explore wide range of languages

By: Eileen Wilson, Granite Bay View Correspondent
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Exploratory World Language Program

For Eureka Union School District 7th and 8th graders. The program costs $160 for the 13-week session, and you can find details on Cavitt and Olympus’ websites, Eureka Union School District’s Website or contact

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It’s nothing unusual to hear “hola” and “como estas” on school campuses. Area schools have offered Spanish classes for decades.

But how about “ni hao”, or “ni haoma”?

If you didn’t recognize these greetings in Mandarin, it’s because you haven’t signed up for Eureka Union School District’s Exploratory World Languages program, a twice a week, after-school enrichment program that will begin on Feb. 4.

While both Cavitt and Olympus junior high schools have offered after-school Spanish Enrichment classes for a number of years, as well as a year-long Spanish elective in which 8th grade students can complete their first year of high school Spanish, program coordinator Heidi Biermann and principals Jennifer Platt and Kelly Graham didn’t think offering just one language was enough.

“We’ve been talking about a language survey course for years,” said Platt, Cavitt’s principal. “I would love to offer additional languages during the school day, but I don’t have enough sections to add anything.”

After-school courses are the next best thing.

Platt said the district has seen an increased incidence of students who continue with Spanish if they have taken the after-school enrichment course in the language.

“We have a great program through the Eureka Schools Foundation’s enrichment program — there has been such a high demand for Spanish that we have had to add an additional academic class,” Platt said.

Biermann had always hoped to add additional languages to ESF’s enrichment offerings.

“It was never my intention to bring just one language to the schools,” she said. “I’m always helping out at the high school (Granite Bay High) and I realized we are feeding into their Spanish program, but we don’t really support French or Japanese. We decided to start offering additional languages in 7th and 8th grade as enrichment classes, though I would love to see an opportunity for younger students in the future, as well.

“We are beginning with Mandarin and French — a 13-week program at Cavitt and Olympus. We will have a Mandarin teacher on one campus, a French teacher on the other, then the teachers will trade locations after seven weeks,” Biermann said.

She hopes to continue the program in the fall, offering up to four languages during the year, with students signing up for the year-long course to sample all the languages.

“We’re hoping to offer Italian, Japanese and Punjabi in the fall,” Biermann said.

Both principals see the value of the program, and look forward to its implementation.

“This is a great opportunity for kids to explore languages before going to high school,” Graham said.

Platt agreed.

“This enrichment course really will connect EUSD to an understanding of a global society where other languages are used. Our kids will be better prepared to enter the workforce and better able to understand the varied languages that dominate the international business culture.”

Biermann said the program is a perfect tie-in with the high school’s International Baccalaureate program, and that the high school may offer Mandarin in the fall.

“Kids today are interested in the Middle East, in Asia — sampling these languages can only help them get jobs in the future.”