Boiseko Ikastola, the only Basque preschool outside of the Basque Country, opened its doors in 1998 thanks to some parents' hard work. Ten years later, it is a dream come true.
Children at the libray of the ikastola in Boise. Photo: Igor Lansorena
One would never expect to find a Basque language school in the United States. However, Boiseko Ikastola, a Basque language immersion preschool in the capital city of Idaho, serves as an example of how Boise's Basque community grows stronger every day and remains devoted to keeping its links to the Basque culture alive.
Started ten years ago by a group of parents who wanted for their kids to have a chance to learn the Basque language, Boiseko Ikastola started with eight kids and some parents as teachers. Nowadays, they have two Basque native teachers, Irune and Goiuri, and sixteen kids split between two classes, including some who do not have any Basque heritage behind them. "A lot of people are interested in having their kids speak a second language", Mara Davis, director of Boiseko Ikastola, says.
Currently, Boiseko ikastola is fully settled and already planning a special celebration for its tenth anniversary. "We want to do something special for all the alumni and the kids that have been here for ten years, do something in the Basque block in springtime, do something for everybody to get together, see how they have grown, see people and the kids that were here before", Mara recounts.
According to Mara, routine and everyday problems in Boiseko Ikastola are the same as in other Basque schools, "common problems, behavior problems and discipline problems, the same as in any preschool, anywhere".
"Everyday, the morning classes are routine: colors, numbers, what is the weather like, and in the afternoons it is more arts and crafts, or we might watch a movie, or go for a walk. In the afternoon, it is more out of routine", the director recounts.
Other types of issues, such as funding or finding the teaching staff, have different solutions from a school in the Basque Country. Boiseko Ikastola receives a grant from the Basque Government, which Mara Davis is really thankful for.
"If we did not have those funds, we might not be able to function separately as an Ikastola for very long. We are so grateful for the money that comes from the Basque Government. We just do not have the enrolment that we would need to stand on our own substantially", she says.
The school also gets a grant from the Cenarrusa Foundation for Basque Culture, which, according to Mara, helps people who need financial help, about a couple of families every semester.
As for the task of finding teachers, Mara recognizes that it is the toughest part. "A lot of teachers that come over are young, they finish school and they only want to travel for a year, they want to experience something for a year, which is great, but on the other hand, the kids here, at the age they are, they need that consistency here, they need to see a friendly face every time they came to school, so it is harder on them, on the kids, because they see somebody new every year", Mara explains.
The Ikastola uses Sain't Paul´s Catholic Newman Center's building to carry out its activities because building safety regulations and health regulations prevented the Ikastola from starting at the Basque block ten years ago. However, moving there should not be ruled out in the future, if the expansion process of the Basque Center and the Basque museum ends up taking place and the same amount of space for the children can be provided.
"I would love it to be there, I would love to be part of the block. It would be nice to be down there, but we are happy with the space we have", Mara confesses. "We started here ten years ago and we have just have not found the space that we have here. We have two classes, a courtyard, a gym, a full kitchen, two offices, the computer room. So, it is really hard to find any space downtown that is as big as this or that is worth the money", she adds.
Boiseko Ikastola does not have any kind of communication with any other ikastolas in the Basque Country at the moment, but Mara admits that is one of the things she wants to start doing this year.
"I would love to be able to do it through Skype, or the webcam, or something like that but I would also like to put something together in videotape or cd-rom that we could send to them so that they could see what we do everyday and then possibly, get something back, so they know more about us and we know more about them. Maybe we are using the same curriculum, maybe we are doing the same things, so it would be nice to start communication", she says.