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Franklin Regional eyes new exchange program

| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

There's one thing missing from Franklin Regional's world-languages program, officials say — and a partnership with a Madrid school might fill that hole.

Officials are considering participating in an immersive exchange program that would bring students from Spain to Franklin Regional and send local students to Spain next summer.

“It's linguistics and culture,” said Valerie Yocco, a Spanish teacher at the high school. “We don't have that native- speaker component in our program.”

Yocco said 15 students and two teachers would visit Franklin Regional for three weeks in the spring to focus on American linguistics and culture. Then, during the summer, 15 Franklin Regional students and as many as three teachers would travel to Spain for the same purpose.

The students from Madrid would sit in on Franklin Regional classes, while local students wouldn't have that same opportunity in Spain. During the summer, Madrid students are taking exams. Instead, Franklin Regional teachers would work with educators in Madrid to develop coursework based on the culture of the country.

The students would be able to immerse themselves in the Spanish culture, something they aren't able to do in the current program, Yocco said. Principal Ron Suvak said the program would be another option for students interested in honing their Spanish skills.

“In an effort to create and foster additional opportunities for our students, Miss Yocco came to me with this opportunity,” Suvak said. “The only thing I know about Spanish is that I can't speak it.”

Host families would provide room and board, and the program wouldn't cost the district anything. Students would be responsible for their flight and health care.

The proposed exchange program isn't the only opportunity for students to be exposed to Spain. A trip to Italy and Spain for Franklin Regional families is in the works for that same summer. Yocco said that, ideally, each trip would have different participants because they serve different purposes. While the exchange program is designed as an immersive learning experience, the Italy-Spain trip predominantly is a travel opportunity, Yocco said.

She said hopes the exchange program would enable the district to create a long-lasting partnership.

“Hopefully, we can become a sister school to them,” Yocco said.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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