Burbank middle school students will be able to take a foreign language class for the first time in nearly 20 years, following the school board’s approval last week to establish a program.

Starting in the 2014-15 academic year, students in the eighth grade can enroll in a Spanish course at Muir, Luther or Jordan middle schools.

Months ago, Burbank school officials discussed establishing a foreign-language program at the middle schools, which was eliminated in 1997 due to budget cuts.

At the start of the current school year, Burbank Unified also started its first dual-language immersion program — also in Spanish — that allows students to spend the majority of the day speaking and learning in that language.

Each of the Spanish courses at the middle schools will be taught by a high school teacher. The program will cost Burbank Unified about $120,000 for instructors and another $18,000 for textbooks.

School board member Larry Applebaum said it was “long overdue” that the district get a “foothold” into the middle schools with a world language program.

“I would like to see a more expansive middle-school program, but you have to start somewhere and Rome wasn’t built in a day,” he said.

Fellow school board member Charlene Tabet, however, questioned the amount of money being spent on the three classes.

“It just doesn’t seem like the best use of funds,” she said.

However, Supt. Jan Britz supported the program, conveying to Tabet that spending the $138,000 on teachers and textbooks was a step in the right direction.

“If we really are committed to do our world language program at the middle school, it’s like everything else. You have to make that initial investment,” she said.

School board President Roberta Reynolds also voiced support of the program’s return.

“If we’re going to do it, there needs to be a first step,” she said. “Otherwise, we just won’t get it done.”

The district expects 100 students across the three middle schools will enroll in the program in the next academic year.

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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