Some parents and others are pleading with Lawrence school administrators to not drop ninth-grade German for next year.
They say the move will harm the district’s language program in the future.
“We’re being told that this is temporary. The problem is once you start strangling programs at the beginning, it’s a multi-year sequence. It’s not easily restorable,” said James Sterbenz, who helped form Parents, Students and Friends of German Language Instruction in Lawrence.
District administrators said $4.6 million in budget cuts for next year included increasing the district’s student-teacher ratio, meaning secondary schools will have to offer less courses because of teaching cuts.
Administrators say if the school board votes to move ninth-graders from the four junior high schools to the two high schools in 2011-2012, the district could again offer the German 1 course in ninth grade.
“We have enough interest in German to have two nice German programs at each high school,” said Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer. “The problem we run into is we’re trying to run six German 1 programs with the four junior and the two high schools.”
There also hasn’t been enough demand in recent years to offer the first German course at the two three-grade high schools, he said.
Sterbenz, a Kansas University associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, said the group worries one year without ninth-grade German 1 will hinder future demand for the course. In letters, members of the group also say it will harm the district’s reputation and academic standing.
Leadership from Eutin, Germany, a Lawrence sister city, also sent a letter asking the district to keep German at the junior high schools for next year.
Sterbenz said he was worried administrators made the German decision without looking closely enough at enrollment numbers in the course, saying ninth-grade German 1 enrollment had quadrupled in the last decade.
Kim Bodensteiner, the district’s chief academic officer, said principals made the decision for next year based on pre-enrollment projections. The budget crisis also increased the severity of the cuts. She said scheduling conflicts would also mean that not every ninth-grade student who indicated interest in German would be able to take the class.
Bodensteiner said the district plans to send out surveys to those students to gauge interest in participating in an evening or summer course. The course possibly could be offered also through the Lawrence Virtual School, she said. The district is exploring these option for students who want to take four years of German before graduating.
“That is a very shaky proposition because the question is: How many kids would do this extra work?” said Friedemann Eisert, the German teacher at Lawrence High School and Southwest Junior High, who will teach at the two high schools next year.