Put up for elimination, Farmington School District's German program gets supportIt appears the Farmington School District’s German language program has the support it needs to stick around even as enrollment declines. School board members will not take any action until at least Jan. 23, but all five board members present at Monday’s regular meeting spoke in support of the program while discussing a proposal that would have phased the language out entirely by the 2016-17 school year.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
It appears the Farmington School District’s German language program has the support it needs to stick around even as enrollment declines.
School board members will not take any action until at least Jan. 23, but all five board members present at Monday’s regular meeting spoke in support of the program while discussing a proposal that would have phased the language out entirely by the 2016-17 school year.
This is the second time in recent years there has been a proposal to eliminate German in Farmington schools. Since the 2006-07 school year enrollment in the program has declined from 290 students to 68. The current year’s enrollment is an increase of 13 students from the 2010-11 school year, but according to numbers presented Monday there are currently no students enrolled in German II, one in German IV and two in German V.
“We’re faced with, how do we maintain the district’s resources? How do we manage students’ schedules in an efficient manner,” teaching and learning director Caleb Drexler-Booth said Monday as he presented the proposed cut as part of a larger package of course changes.
Board members were reluctant to remove a language option, though, and they were not convinced there had been enough discussion of the language program as a whole for them to make a ruling on eliminating German.
“We don’t want to be a district with only two foreign languages,” board member Tim Burke said.
Board members said they’d like to see some discussion of other options, including distance learning with video lessons.
The district’s world languages program is currently in the middle of a review cycle, and Drexler-Booth said there has been support for the program as a whole. In a recent survey nearly half of the 481 respondents supported starting language classes at the elementary level and 25 percent supported offering foreign languages to students before they reach kindergarten.
Currently about 60 percent of the district’s eighth- through 12th-grade students are enrolled in a foreign language, with about 71 percent of those students taking Spanish, Drexler-Booth said.
When the district discussed eliminating German two years ago large numbers of parents and students showed up to support the program. There were fewer supporters in attendance Monday, but board members said they’ve heard from a number of former FHS German students.
Enrollment at the lower levels of the German program grew this year. In the 2010-11 school year there were eight students enrolled in German I. This year there are 48.
That number has German teacher Cheryl Wason excited. Wason said the success of her former students is the best argument for keeping the program. She suggested Monday that part of the reason for the decline in German enrollment is that she expects a lot of her students. She told board members she could think of 100 former students who have gone on to become stars in college German programs.
“I think I have lost numbers for the correct reason,” she said. “I believe with a bit of nurturing, German will survive and it will keep making stars.”
There was some support for that argument among board members.
“She raised the bar,” board member Julie McKnight said of Wason. “In all honesty, rather than cut German, I would rather see us apply the principles she brings to other languages.”
The board will discuss the German program again at its Jan. 23 meeting.