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New Mexico district eyes Spanish, Navajo dual-language plan

April 7, 2018

In this photo taken March 30, 2010, clockwise from the top left, Noah Begay, 8, Jaycee Begay, 7, Triston Charles, 8, and Alexia Chee, 8, begin coloring after their Navajo lesson about U.S. Presidents at Ruth N. Bond Elementary in Kirtland, N.M. One hundred and fifty students are already enrolled in Navajo bilingual classes, and two teachers, one certified with the state of New Mexico and the other certified with the tribe, are scrambling to keep up with the demand. A school district in New Mexico's Four Corners regions wants to have some students fluent in Spanish or Navajo by the time they graduate from high school. The Daily Times in Farmington reports Monday, April 2, 2018, kindergartners in the Farmington Municipal School District next school year have the chance to enroll in a dual-language program in Spanish or Diné. (Rebecca Craig/The Daily Times via AP)

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — A school district in New Mexico’s Four Corners region wants to have some students fluent in Spanish or Navajo by time they graduate from high school.

Kindergartners in the Farmington Municipal School District next school year have the chance to enroll in a dual-language program in Spanish or Diné, the Daily Times in Farmington reports.

The first year will feature a 20-student kindergarten class learning Diné at Apache Elementary School, and another 20-student class learning Spanish at McCormick Elementary School.

The district hopes to expand the programs to other schools, Superintendent Gene Schmidt said.

According to district officials, the program will start with 45 minutes of instruction each day in either Diné or Spanish. During that time, the students will learn social studies.

Each year, that time will increase, and more subjects will be added. By the time the kindergartners reach fourth grade, half of the day’s instruction will be taught in Spanish or Diné, and the other half will be in English.

“This program is open to all students, not just Native American students,” Karen Brown, director of multicultural education for the district, said during a meeting Monday about the Navajo language program at Apache.

Assistant director of Indian education Shawl Iron Moccasin said the key to the students’ success will be parent involvement. The parents will receive handbooks and are asked to speak to their children in Diné or Spanish. Parents who do not speak Diné can take a free evening class once a week at Apache.

Jessica Smallcanyon and her fiancé, Brandon Chavez, attended Monday’s parent meeting to learn about the options for their children. Neither speaks Diné, but Chavez said he has been looking into ways to learn it.

“It feels awkward, and it feels embarrassing not to know your own language,” he said.

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Information from: The Daily Times, http://www.daily-times.com

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