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Spanish in kindergarten?

Recent Cloquet High School graduates Robbie Sobczak and Lucas Tomhave present a proposal to the Cloquet School Board to begin K-12 Spanish education. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

Cloquet School Board members heard arguments for starting foreign language instruction sooner, along with construction updates, during Monday's meeting.

Cloquet High School 2016 graduates Lucas Tomhave and Rob Sobczak gave a presentation to the board explaining why it's important to teach a foreign language beginning in kindergarten.

Sobczak told of his world travels and how the majority of countries he visited start teaching their youth a second language in elementary school. The duo handed out a laminated information sheet listing different reasons why learning a second language at a young age is beneficial, and they went over the list with the board members.

They explained that with modern technology and an increasing global economy, being bilingual is necessary for many jobs.

Speaking more than one language fluently also builds denser grey matter in the brain, which means preventing symptoms of dementia for several years longer than people who only speak one language. Bilingual people have a better memory, increased self-esteem, are more creative, better at solving complex problems and score higher than their monolingual peers in verbal and math tests, according to the information sheet.

Tomhave and Sobczak noted they understand adding classes to the curriculum takes time and money, but they wanted to start the conversation with the School Board now. Flex classes and afterschool foreign language classes were discussed as possible alternatives to adding a school curriculum class.

Both the young men said they would be willing to help implement the classes.

Kraus-Anderson Construction project manager Greg Schendel gave an update on several of the schools' construction projects, such as issues with leaking roofs at Washington Elementary, Churchill Elementary and Cloquet High School. He said portions of the high school roof were recently replaced for $317,000 and Washington has 15 to 20 leak issues when it rains. Schendel credits age and flashing as the biggest contributors to the leaking. There are flashing issues with the high/low roof connection in the gym area on the Washington roof, while exposed ductwork leaking and wet insulation are issues for both Washington and Churchill schools.

There has been a flurry of construction inside the high school, including the addition of a new security entrance. The work is projected to be finished around mid-July.

The parking lot at the new middle school is scheduled to be paved June 19, with landscaping to follow around the end of June or beginning of July.

The new middle school furniture will be set up in the rooms sometime in July and the new swimming pool should be filled the last week in July.

Schendel said he needs additional labor to ensure all projects get done by the opening of the new school year and asked that the contract be adjusted to compensate for the changes.

He noted there is $750,000 remaining in contingency money.

Audience member James Mallery said if the contractor was indeed on schedule and on budget he would not be requesting additional help to have the project done on time.

In other board news:

• Board members discussed open-enrollment transportation. Cloquet School District is required to provide transportation to open-enrolled students. The board members discussed the possibility of using a van instead of a school bus for longer distances such as Duluth to help cut costs.

• There are 73 students registered for summer classes at Washington Elementary School.

• Cloquet Middle School has 36 students registered in summer school classes.

• Cloquet Area Alternative Education Programs has found running three days of intensive summer classes is more productive for the students instead of five days, according to Principal Connie Hyde.

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