Three local elementary schools will offer Arabic as a certified foreign language class at the start of next school year.
The Chicago Public Schools recently re-allocated $1 million for a select number of schools to teach Arabic, Chinese and Russian in an effort to expand their Critical Language Program.
Mayor Daley also announced last month that 60 CPS high school students will be allowed to study Arabic and Chinese this summer at the University of Chicago.
The elementary schools of Durkin Park, 8445 S. Kolin Ave.; Marquette, 6550 S. Richmond St.; and Peck, 3826 W. 58th St., will begin to teach Arabic as part of the foreign language program at the start of the next school year.
Previously these three schools, along with Volta, had been teaching it as a volunteer after-school program.
"Our vision is to give all our students the kind of global education that prepares them to be leaders in Chicago, in our nation and in the world," said Daley.
On May, 8, students from Durkin, Marquette and Peck went on a field trip to the Alhambra Palace, 1240 W. Randolph St., to get a tour of the restaurant and an example of Arabic culture.
At the Palace, an Arabic band performed, the students got to dance to the music, and they ate Arabic food.
Summer Rabadi, a teacher at Durkin Park who taught in the all-volunteer after-school Arabic program, said that everyone has responded positively to the program.
The program started in November and ended May 8 with the event at the Alhambra Palace.
"The Alhambra Palace is very cultured, with $12 million in decorations and furniture. It is like a museum," said Rabadi.
According to Sylvia Acierto, director of the World Language Program for CPS, this was a culminating event for the end of the school year.
"It is beneficial anytime a student learns not only another language but understands a different culture," said Acierto.
Acierto also said that this program is beneficial because all of the students who were taking Arabic volunteered and most of them were not from an Arabic background.
Some of the students, she noted, were learning a third language in the after-school program.
Those three schools principals will now begin the search for teachers who will instruct the Arabic classes during the next school year. The hiring process will be the same as that used for any teaching position.
"Hopefully the new teachers will not just teach the language but the culture as well," said Acierto.
The children are not the only ones who enjoy the program. Parents seem to be happy with what their children are learning.
"The parents were happy their children were introduced to the arts and the culture," said Rabadi.
Rabadi believes the program is beneficial to students because it shows them the views and ideas of Arabic Americans in a positive way.
She said that Durkin Park Principal Dan Redmond has been very supportive of the program.
According to CPS, there are currently 300 students participating in the Arabic language program.
"Chinese and Arabic are quickly becoming two of the world's most important languages. Our students must learn these languages and understand them, in a cultural context, in order to succeed in today's global economy," said Arne Duncan, CPS Chief Executive Officer.
According to CPS, they plan to expand the languages' program for students from kindergarten to 12th grade. Only sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders took the after-school Arabic programs at the three area elementary schools this past school year.
Columbia Explorers Academy, in Brighton Park, is one of the schools that currently offers Chinese classes. Curie High School also offers Chinese classes.