D55 considers Native American language preservation

BLACKFOOT — The Blackfoot School Board of Trustees discussed Native American language preservation at their meeting Thursday night.
The topic of Native American language immersion in the Blackfoot School District has been an ongoing topic for the school board, an effort supported by Trustee Pete Lipovac.
At the meeting, Superintendent Scott Crane presented information about several Native American Language Preservation Acts that provide grant funding for language preservation programs.
None of the acts provide funding directly to school districts, but funding can be obtained through recognized Native American tribes.
The board has tabled the discussion for now and members said they would like more information from more members of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes to express an interest in a language immersion program within the district.
Speaking at the meeting, Fort Hall Elementary School Principal Brenda Honena said tribal elders have contacted her to voice concerns with the program and have stated that language should be learned at home. Additionally, Honena said the parent advisory committee has chosen academics as a priority over language.
"They are concerned with the academics of native learners," Honena said.
Crane pointed out that students at Fort Hall Elementary have improved academically.
"What we're doing at Fort Hall is working," Crane said. "It's a good program."
If the district hopes to implement a language immersion program within the district, Crane said it would need to work alongside the Tribes in order to receive funding.
"It would have to be through the support of the Tribes," Crane said.
The Shoshone language is currently being taught in the after-school program at Fort Hall Elementary. Honena said 60 of the schools' 168 students participate in the program.
The board also discussed passed and pending legislation that will affect the school district. A meeting has been planned for mid-April to discuss, review and pass district policy changes as a result of the passed legislation.
The board voted to allow the district to hire a consultant to analyze population within the trustee zones to determine if zone boundaries need adjusted.
During the meeting, Crane expressed the district's appreciation to the community for their support of the supplemental levy, which passed by a wide margin.