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District will make cuts to German program

Declining enrollment at all grade levels means Farmington eighth graders will not get a chance to take German next year.

The District 192 School Board voted 3-2 Monday to approve a 1/3 reduction in German teacher Cheryl Wason's hours. That means no German I classes next year at Robert Boeckman or Levi Dodge Middle Schools. The proposal drew a room full of German supporters to Monday's meeting and inspired at least one Facebook group dedicated to saving the program, but assistant superintendent Christine Weymouth said the move is based entirely on enrollment.

At 129 students, the Farmington German program has about one-third as many students enrolled next year as the French program and about one-ninth the enrollment of the Spanish program. There are 17 students enrolled in German I at Boeckman and 20 at Dodge, and Weymouth said those numbers typically decline as students discover conflicts in their schedules.

German enrollment has dropped over the years. In 2006-07 there were roughly 300 students enrolled in the class at all levels. For the past three years that number has been closer to 100. For 2010-11 there are only 12 students enrolled in German IV and four or five in German V.

"We're not doing this based on one year. We're doing the best we can with the resources we have," Dodge Middle School principal Barb Duffrin said Monday.

It's not unusual for a school district to reduce offerings in a program if enrollment declines. Farmington High School principal Ben Kusch said the high school at one point offered AP biology only every other year. Other programs have been eliminated due to a lack of student interest.

The change will not eliminate any level of German. German I will still be offered to freshmen and sophomores at FHS. In a letter to school board members superintendent Brad Meeks estimated the German reduction will save the district $23,000 to $28,000.

This particular change struck a nerve with many in the district, though. Parents and students filled the school board meeting room Monday night and former students Logan West and Jackie Burke started a Facebook group that drew 75 supporters.

On the page former students talk in glowing terms about the program.

Proponents of keeping the program, including board members Tim Burke and Julie Singewald, argued that eliminating German I in eighth grade would make it impossible for students to reach German V by their senior year and suggested the district's move to two middle schools this year might be part of what has hurt enrollment. Burke suggested the district give numbers one more year to rebound before making any reductions.

The district plans to review its world language curriculum next year.

West, who is currently a freshman at the University of Minnesota Duluth, said being involved in the FHS German program had a significant impact on his life. He signed up in ninth grade and has since fallen in love with the language and the country.

"When I was a student of Frau Wason's she really was able to connect with us about more than the language, the culture," West said. "After I had that experience I wanted to know more. I took it upon myself to learn."

West, who is studying graphic design, hopes to eventually live and work in Germany. He started the Facebook group because he wants other students to have the same opportunity he's had.

West said he's satisfied with the resolution board members reached Monday.

"I think it will have its way of working out," West said. "I'm glad it didn't get completely cut."

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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