High-school students in the area will have a new language option for study starting later this fall, as the Lower Sioux Community is going to be offering a Dakota language course.

The program, which is being sponsored by the Lower Sioux tribal council, was approved as a credited class at the high school level by the Redwood Area Board of Education at its Sept. 28 meeting, and if all goes well the class will start being offered this October and going through May 16.

Ryan Dixon, a Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) certified Dakota language instructor, will teach the course, which has a curriculum that Dixon developed based on resources from the University of Minnesota and online language programs and applications.

“I have taught all ages from preschool through adults,” said Dixon, who is a Dakota as a second language speaker. “There are only four first-language Dakota speakers left. This is the ancestral home of the Dakota, and it was the first language that was spoken here. I just want to do my part to preserve that language.”

The plan would be to offer the class at the Lower Sioux Community Center Mondays and Wednesdays for two hours from 6-8 p.m. 

Those students who successfully complete the class and an examination approved by the Redwood Area School District would earn a credit as they could through the existing world language program at the high school.

According to Darcy Josephson, Redwood Area School District director of teaching and learning, the program would fall under the high school’s policy number 620. Under that policy, students are allowed to study to receive academic credit through entities, such as higher institutions of learning or a non-profit public agency.

Josephson said the Lower Sioux community as the sponsor of the program qualifies as a non-profit public agency.

Josephson said the curriculum had to meet certain language standards set by the district based on those established by the state department of education, and she and Rick Jorgensen, Redwood Valley High School principal, have reviewed the curriculum and agreed it does meet the standard.

The class would be open to all students, said Dixon, adding he has also been working with the Cedar Mountain School District to provide the same opportunity to its high-school students.

“The ideal class size would be about 20 students,” said Dixon, adding having 50 students sign up would be a great problem to have for the program.

If the program is successful in the first year, Dixon said he would hope to provide higher-level courses in the future.

Rick Ellingworth, Redwood Area School District superintendent, said in the first year the program will be at Lower Sioux, but if the program would continue to see success it could find a home within the walls of the local district.

Ultimately, said Dixon, in the first year the goal would be to have the students each speaking in Dakota for approximately three to five minutes, adding he also plans to have the students offer presentations in Dakota and possibly take part in a Dakota Knowledge Bowl.

In other action during its Aug. 28 meeting, the school board:

• Approved the senior class attendance/early dismissal request for the Class of 2018. Seniors will be excused from mandatory attendance May 15-17 if they have met all class and course requirements. Those who have not met those requirements will be required to be in school until their work is completed.

According to Rick Jorgensen, RVHS principal, the excusal of the seniors allows for senior grades to be calculated for graduation status, provides seniors who are struggling to focus on those areas during those final days, gives secretarial staff time to more efficiently deal with senior grades and staff believe the students are much more motivated to complete work in advance to receive the early out option.

• Approved a request from the Redwood Valley football team to host a “Tackle Cancer” fundraiser at the Sept. 22 home football game. The team will be selling shirts and raffling off the game ball.

• Approved the Minnesota State High School League representatives for the 2017-18 school year, including Clark Grannes, Andy Our-ada, Matt Lundeen, Connie Lunde, Paul Berg-gren and Janet DePuy.

• Accepted the resignations of David Madson from his position as assistant golf coach, Cindy Collins from her position as middle-school Know-ledge Bowl coach, Tonia Christensen from her position as an elementary-school special education paraprofessional, Beth Gaffney from her position as an early childhood assistant and Janet Bailey from her position as an early childhood special education paraprofessional.