FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Choosing a school for your child is a difficult and involved decision. With so many alternatives available, parents are often left with many questions and feeling rather overwhelmed. We hope that this section will help you with this process and will answer most of your questions. Please contact us if we can be of any further assistance (info@rilkeschule.org or 742-7455).

The following questions are answered below:

  • Why should my child learn a foreign language?
  • Why German?
  • What is a charter school?
  • How does immersion work?
  • What is the school’s teaching philosophy?
  • Will my child’s English language skills suffer?
  • What if my student does not know German?
  • What if my student already speaks German?
  • What is the minimum age to attend Rilke Schule?
  • Is a German Immersion Preschool available?
  • Are there any fees to attend the school?
  • What is the average class size?
  • Is there a dress code?
  • What is the curriculum?
  • How does the lottery at Rilke Schule work?
  • Is there a homework policy?
  • Is there a music program?
  • Is there a before and after school program?
  • Is there volunteer work required?
  • Nobody at home speaks German – is this a disadvantage?
  • When will my child be fluent in German?
  • Is there an option for half-day kindergarten?
  • What can the parent do to support the child’s learning experience?

Why should my child learn a foreign language?

Scientific research has shown that foreign language learning increases achievement in basic skills such as communication and listening. It enhances brain development and memory, improves understanding of the student’s native language, and gives a new perspective and understanding of language.  Furthermore, it promotes awareness, appreciation, and acceptance of other peoples and cultures and prepares students to participate more fully in the global community and marketplace. Immersion students become more flexible thinkers and exhibit greater nonverbal problem-solving abilities. Many studies have consistently found that immersion students do as well or even better than non-immersion students on standardized tests. Brain research has shown that for greatest accuracy and excellent pronunciation, foreign language learning is best begun before the age of ten.

Why German?

One in four Americans is of German descent; there is a rich history of Germans in the USA and in Alaska as well.

German and English are the primary business languages of the European  economies. More than 1,100 companies in German-speaking countries have subsidiaries in the United States and over 750 American companies do business in German-speaking countries.

Thousands of German-speaking tourists visit Alaska each summer, creating a demand for Alaskans who are comfortable in that language.

German has proven to be a language of high interest in Alaska, which has the second highest percent of students learning German in the United States, after Pennsylvania.  Every high school in Anchorage has a German program and our students and teachers have won national honors, including free trips to Germany.

German is the most frequently recommended language by U.S. universities.The University of Alaska now offers a major in German, so students can continue their education in their home state.

Germany has provided a rich literary, musical, scientific and political legacy for the evolution of Western Civilization.  Ten percent of the books published in the world are in German. Mastery of German provides insights into German literature, science, history and culture, which cannot be obtained in translation.

What is a charter school?

Charter schools are non-sectarian, tuition-free public schools that operate within the district under contract with the school board. Charter schools offer alternative teaching methods or curricula and more independence than regular public schools.  Click here for more information on Charter Schools in the Anchorage School District.

How does immersion work?

Immersion schooling differs from traditional instructional approaches in which foreign languages are taught as separate subjects. In this program children are “immersed” in the language for half of the school day. English-speaking children learn to understand, speak, read, and write German by hearing and using it constantly during normal classroom activities. Care is taken to ease students into the new language and to ensure comprehension. Progress and performance are carefully measured.

Students will learn to speak German fluently and will have a deep understanding of heritage, cultural norms and customs of German-speaking countries. The German immersion faculty have native or near-native German language skills and the rest of the staff have the opportunity to acquire German skills to support the immersion in all phases of school life.

Our immersion program encompasses a half-day of instruction in German in the subjects of reading, writing and language arts, math, and a combination of science, health and social studies (Sachkunde). The other half of the day will be subjects taught in English, especially reading, writing and language arts.

What is the school’s teaching philosophy?

We believe that all children can and should learn at least one other language in addition to English to prepare them for their future role as world citizens.  Please see our Mission and Vision statement.

Will my child’s English language skills suffer?

NO! Learning a foreign language is actually beneficial for English language development. Research studies across the United States and Canada have shown that young foreign language learners show greater achievement in basic skills and improvement in standardized test scores compared to students who were not learning a foreign language.

What if my student does not know German?

Incoming Kindergarten or first grade students are not expected to have any prior German skills. Older students with no German knowledge will not be admitted to Rilke Schule.

What if my student already speaks German?

Older students who are advanced or fluent in German will be considered in the school lottery if space is available in their grade.

What is the minimum age to attend Rilke Schule?

According to the ASD Policy Handbook, Section 440.1 Minimum Age:

Any child who is six years of age or who will become six years of age on or before September 1 of the school year shall be considered a child of school age, except that a child who will become five years of age on or before September 1 of the school year may be received into a kindergarten.

Is a German Immersion Preschool available?

Currently, no German immersion preschool is available in Anchorage. However, we are always interested in helping get a German program implemented.

Are there any fees to attend the school?

There is an annual non-refundable Activity Fee that goes toward resources for in-house activities, and special school supplies, such as art and science supplies, German school books (including shipping costs), and specialized German materials, which differ from class to class. See our Registration Page for details on the current Activity Fee.

For example, the Kindergarteners get a Schultüte (a filled paper cone), the upper grades get fountain pens and ink, and all students get supplies for their lanterns and other art supplies. The second graders get a Federmappe (pencil case stocked with supplies) at the beginning of the school year. Replacements and refill items can be bought at the school store.

The fee does not cover the regular classroom supplies each student needs (like binders, notebooks, pencils etc.) and a supply list will be issued for each grade before school starts.

What is the average class size?

Rilke Schule believes that the ideal size for Kindergarten and 1st grade classes is 20 students, and for the other grade levels is 25 students. However, class sizes may be slightly bigger or smaller (i.e. to accommodate siblings and to balance overall enrollment).

Is there a dress code?

There is a dress code, consisting of solid color, non-logo collared shirts, blouses, or dresses (such as polo shirts) and pants, skirts, jumpers, skorts or shorts in a plain solid color.  For complete details details, see Dress Code.

What curriculum is taught?

On the English side of the curriculum, we will emphasize reading and language skills. We expect that most kindergarteners will be reading by the end of kindergarten. The German curriculum emphasizes skills in speaking, understanding, reading and writing German, science, geography and social studies. Please see a more detailed description of the curriculum here.

How does the lottery at Rilke Schule work?

The purpose of the lottery is to provide an equal opportunity for all students who request participation in one of the Anchorage School District’s schools other than their assigned District school, and to provide for grade level and gender balance. No student shall be denied participation because of a physical, mental, or learning disability, or special need.

Two lotteries are conducted annually. One is held during the last two weeks of March, and the other in late summer, the week prior to fall registration.

Parents of children requesting entrance to Rilke Schule must complete the Anchorage School District lottery application.

If more children apply than there are spaces for at the school, a waiting list is formed. The only standard prioritization in the lottery is for siblings. With special permission, the principal is also permitted to preempt the process to allow for Documented Hardship (extenuating circumstances, medical, safety, psychological, or curriculum considerations), or to achieve gender balance if more than 2/3rds of the class is one gender.

Here’s what happens:

When a students name is drawn, they are put on the acceptance list in numerical order, and will be enrolled at the school from that list in numerical order. Siblings’ names are drawn first, followed by all other names. Admission continues down the list until all available spaces are taken. Remaining names are waitlisted. If a student’s name is withdrawn from the list, the next available waiting list name is admitted. Parents must annually acknowledge their interest in remaining on the waiting list by notifying the school. Students remaining on the list will keep their place and the grade level list will move up a grade annually. Pre-kindergarten students are eligible for the lottery only in the March preceding eligibility for school entrance. First grade students with no German background are eligible for admittance through the first quarter only. After that, they must have equivalent German knowledge to be admitted.

Parents of students who have entered the lottery and been chosen for Rilke Schule must accept or reject the school within two (2) school days after notification. For pre-kindergarten students, they will notify the school within the two-day period of their acceptance, but actual registration will take place during the normal kindergarten registration period in August. Those students who do not enroll within the designated period will be withdrawn from the waiting list and they must reapply if they wish to attend. If an attempt to contact a parent/guardian to offer a space to a waiting list student isn’t successful, the student will remain on the list through the next lottery period. If an attempt to contact the parent/guardian is again unsuccessful during the next lottery period, the student will be removed from the waiting list. If students are already in the program and are withdrawn for any reason, they must follow the lottery procedures if there is a waiting list. No student will be allowed to accept a place in more than one program at the same time. All schools turn in their waiting lists to the Assistant Superintendent for Instruction within five (5) days of each lottery.

As openings occur in a particular grade level, the parents of the next student on the waiting list will be notified of the opening and must accept or reject the school within two (2) school days. Registration should occur as soon as possible after that date, but no later than five (5) days after acceptance.

Is there a homework policy?

In light of recent research which has shown that much of the homework assigned is not productive and in keeping with our belief that students need quality family time as well as time to play, we will set an upper limit on homework of one hour per night for the older students and less for the younger ones. There will be some type of culturally relevant homework every night to help students develop good study habits. There will be a supervised homework class after school for parents who wish their children to attend.

Is a music program available?

Rilke Schule will teach a general music curriculum during regular school time. Our music teacher, Herr Downie, is also offering band and other musical opportunities before school several mornings a week.

Are before and after school care and activities available?

Yes, there are a variety of activities available. Please see the School Clubs web page.

Is volunteer work required?

We believe that at the heart of every vibrant and successful school is a community of involved parents and extended families. Rilke Schule strongly encourages parents to take an active role in their child’s school and education. We thus ask each family to volunteer 4 hours of their time and expertise per month. Volunteer opportunities are very varied, including work at home such as telephoning, e-mailing, working on the class newsletter, etc.  For parents who are available during school hours, there is a variety of interesting tasks. Learn more on our Volunteer Needs web page.

Nobody at home speaks German – is this a disadvantage?

No, it is expected that the majority of students come from English-only speaking households. The immersion program is designed to teach children who don’t have any prior German language knowledge. After-school tutoring and homework help will be offered if a student needs some extra assistance. Since the entire school will be immersed in the German culture, students will have plenty of opportunity to hone their German skills outside of the classroom. For parents who are interested in learning German alongside their children, Adult German classes will be offered in the evenings.

When will my child be fluent in German?

Learning a foreign language is a long-term commitment. While listening and reading skills will be comparable to those of native speakers of the same age after 2 to 3 years, speaking and writing skills will develop more gradually.

Is there an option for half-day kindergarten?

The school has chosen to offer only full-day kindergarten, as do all of the language immersion schools in Anchorage. This is because the languages are switched at least once a day, and sometimes more; thus a child attending for half a day would miss a significant part of the instruction. We run a curriculum which takes the developmental stages of kindergarten children  into consideration and offer times for play, snacks and rest.

What can the parent do to support the child’s learning experience?

  • Read with your children daily, no matter which language.
  • Get to know your child’s teacher (in person, by phone, or through e-mail). School Staff
  • Let your child know how proud you are that s/he is learning German
  • Become involved in your child’s school life (volunteer, join the Rilke Schule Verein(PTO)
  • Expose your child to German outside the school setting (videos, books, cultural events).
  • Encourage, but do not force your child to speak German.