Updated: Feb 8, 2011 4:30 p.m.
MANSFIELD (CBSDFW.COM) - A Mansfield ISD program to teach Arabic language and culture in schools is on hold for now, and may not happen at all.
The school district wanted students at selected schools to take Arabic language and culture classes as part of a federally funded grant.
The Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) grant was awarded to Mansfield ISD last summer by the U.S. Department of Education.
As part of the five-year $1.3 million grant, Arabic classes would have been taught at Cross Timbers Intermediate School and other schools feeding into Summit High School.
Parents at Cross Timbers say they were caught off-guard by the program, and were surprised the district only told them about it in a meeting Monday night between parents and Mansfield ISD Superintendent Bob Morrison.
The Department of Education has identified Arabic as a 'language of the future.' But parent Joseph Balson was frustrated by the past. "Why are we just now finding out about it?" asked Balson. "It's them (Mansfield ISD) applying for the grant, getting it approved and them now saying they'll go back and change it only when they were caught trying to implement this plan without parents knowing about it."
Trisha Savage thinks it will offer a well-rounded education. "I think its a great opportunity that will open doors. We need to think globally and act locally."
Mansfield ISD says in addition to language, the grant provides culture, government, art, traditions and history as part of the curriculum.
Some parents had concerns over religion. "The school doesn't teach Christianity, so I don't want them teaching Islam," said parent Baron Kane. During Monday's meeting Morrison stressed the curriculum would not be about religion, but about Arabic language and culture, similar to the Spanish curriculum already in place in the district.
Kheirieh Hannun was born in the Middle East but raised in the U.S. She believes giving students the option to learn Arabic will give her son and others like him the option to learn more about their culture. "It was surprising, but I think it's okay, and it will help come down on the stereotype." Hannun says she is hopeful the class could broaden the minds of not only students, but also parents.
The FLAP grant was awarded to only five school districts across the country, including Mansfield. The district says the plan is on hold so it can hear from more parents. After that evaluation is over, the district says it is possible they might return the grant.
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