Conversations in Dunlap High School's hallways could become a bit more complex this fall.
Students could be speaking Arabic.
On Wednesday, Dunlap School District 323 approved an Arabic language course to be added to the high school's curriculum, despite some hesitation by one board member because of religious concerns.
Terry Haas said he was concerned that the background of the language might entail some religious dealings, and he wanted to make sure religion was not something "that creeps in" to the teaching.
Fellow board member Brian Meginnes quickly dispelled Haas' concerns, saying such proposed censorship could set a dangerous precedent.
"That would create a slippery slope," Meginnes said. "Then you would have to ask the same questions of other languages."
Students at Dunlap can take the class through Illinois Central College starting in the fall. They would have to pay tuition for the course, but would also gain college credit along with high school credit at the same time, said Jeanne Williamson, the district's superintendent. The transferable course will be offered at Dunlap and on site at ICC, which approved the course in a November board meeting.
Jill Wright, ICC's interim associate dean of English and language studies, said the college is offering the course to meet students' demands. The college has yet to find a professor to teach the course, but with international businesses such as Caterpillar Inc. in Peoria, Wright said it shouldn't be difficult to find someone to pilot the new venture.
"We have a very large international community in Peoria," she said. "I think we'll be fine."
The board also named its new school Dunlap Valley Middle School. The $16 million project is set to open in August, and will give the district two middle schools.
Also on Wednesday, the board decided which elementary schools will feed into each middle school.
A papers-in-a-box lottery decided that Ridgeview Elementary and Dunlap Grade will feed into the newly constructed school while Banner Elementary and Wilder-Waite Grade will feed into Dunlap Middle School.