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Group pushing for Spanish immersion education

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A North Kildonan parent is helping to spearhead a movement for Spanish immersion education in the city.

Eugenia Lehmann, who has children in German and French immersion programs, is working with Crescentwood resident Kathy Heppner to help establish early-years Spanish education in the city beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

The movement started in the fall when the pair discussed what the future holds for their children at the Spanish playgroup they attend at Glenwood Community Centre at 27 Overton St. in Old St. Vital.

When their children enter kindergarten and no longer attend the playgroup, held every Friday from 9:30 a.m. to noon, there will be no chance for them to receive Spanish education in school until Grade 9.

"I wanted my son to keep knowing Spanish and didn’t know how to go about doing that other than have him hear me speak," said Lehmann, who is originally from Mexico. "I’m so many years separated from my home country that my Spanish is watered-down, so my son’s exposure to the language is that much more watered-down."

Heppner said families from a variety of ethnicities have attended the playgroup and have expressed interest in Spanish immersion.

 "There are families from a Latin-American background who want their children to continue learning Spanish. There are other families that have lived in other countries, were ex-pats, and learned Spanish. There are other people that show up that just want their children to learn Spanish – they have no connection (to the language)," said Heppner.

"We asked ourselves why there isn’t a Spanish immersion program in Winnipeg. We have the demographic and we have such a multicultural city."

The group has met with Winnipeg School Division No. 1 representatives and hopes to meet with other divisions soon. However, Heppner said a list of interested, but not necessarily committed, families is needed before the push can proceed further. Interested families must provide their children’s names, birth year, and address. Lehmann said the group will present to school divisions serving areas where more interested parents are located.

"Our job right now, we see, is promoting it, gathering enough names, and putting together a formal proposal," said Heppner, adding at least 23 families will need to be committed for a kindergarten program.

Lehmann said the group is open to either bilingual (half-Spanish, half-English) or immersion (all-Spanish) options.

Those looking for more information on Spanish immersion can check out the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Winnipeg-Spanish-Immersion/500557753298143?fref=ts.

As well, the Friday playgroup is open to the public. Admission costs $2 per session, which includes a Spanish lesson for children. For more information, call Lehmann at 204-887-4572 or email genilehmann@gmail.com.

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