The Calgary Board of Education is seeking the public's opinion on the creation of an Arabic bilingual alternative program.

If there is sufficient interest, the program would open in September 2012 for Kindergarten and Grade 1 students.

Following that, it would expand one grade per year.

The CBE was recently criticized for dropping mandatory French in elementary schools; however, they insist the possible introduction of an Arabic program is unrelated to that decision.

German, Mandarin, Spanish, and French are already taught in Calgary public schools.

Currently, there are an estimated 35, 000 Arabic speakers in Calgary.

The CBE says it's a reflection of the city's ethnic diversity.

If approved, the program will teach students about the language and culture through a celebration of cultural activities, traditions, and events.

As with all second language programs, it would offer many cognitive benefits, greater flexibility and problem-solving strategies for students as well as increased employment and travel opportunities.

Information on the program will be provided at an open house on Thursday, May 19 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. in the cafeteria at Central Memorial High School, 5111 21st Street S.W.

Parents are encouraged to submit their input on either by attending the open house, faxing in a form, or completing the CBE's online survey.