Although the Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 school board eliminated the elementary world language program earlier this year, students in the district will still have the opportunity to learn a second language, but it will cost them.
District officials said they plan to start offering Mandarin Chinese and Spanish either before school, after school or during lunch though the company Language Stars.
The 45-minute lessons once a week will cost families $150 a year and can be continued each year from kindergarten through fifth grade, Superintendent Sarah Jerome said.
District 25 used to offer Mandarin to fourth- and fifth-graders through a program funded by a federal grant. When the grant program was eliminated, the school board voted in February not to continue funding the nearly $200,000 program.
The move came right after a parent survey that showed parents wanted more world language education at lower grades, not less.
Since then, Jerome said, she has heard from hundreds of parents hoping for some kind of alternative.
While many of the more than 40 parents at an informational meeting Thursday night said they were excited about the program, many still wanted more than just weekly instruction in a second language.
"One of the things that is really key is to hook children into loving language so they will continue," Jerome said. "We would love to offer language for 20 minutes a day, every day, but aren't able to do that at this point."
Jerome said if there is enough interest, she hopes the board will reinstate a world language program in the future.
Language Stars will provide teachers, workbooks and materials for multilevel classes of between 16 and 25 students. Kindergarten through second-graders will learn together while third- through fifth-graders will be in another group.
Classes are anticipated to start in October. Parents can sign up online on the district website but will officially register for a time slot and pay for the program in August. The program will be completely parent-funded and won't need school board approval.
So far more than 300 parents have shown interest in the program, with some parents hoping to enroll their students in both languages.