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Auf Wiedersehen to German program

Students Jacob Froelich, Jason Dennis and Luke Swenson sit in Froelich's decorated truck in support of the Park Rapids German program. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

German classes will be phased out at Park Rapids Area High School over the course of a year.

The Park Rapids School Board voted to approve cutting the German program and offer one section of German II during the 2009-10 school year. The board met Monday night after requesting more information about what would happen to current German students if the program were cut.

High School principal Al Judson provided several options for the school board to consider.

He explained that he was given the direction to make cuts and he had to look at which classes were necessary to keep and which classes were electives. German classes fell into the elective category. And German teacher Linda Uscola is retiring at the end of the school year.

Judson looked at upcoming class sizes to determine that with the German program reduction, two sections of Spanish would need to be added to accommodate students who might want to take a foreign language. Then, by the 2011-12 school year, those two sections could be reduced.

Grades 9 and 10 will be larger than this year, Judson said. He estimates that for 2009-10 there will be about 260 9th and 10th graders; for 2010-11, there will be 244; for 2011-12 there will be 211; and for 2012-13 there will be 203.

Judson said he is focused on those grades because 67 percent of students who take German are in 9th or 10th grade and 75 percent of students who take Spanish are in 9th or 10th grade.

"We're looking at this over a period of time," he said.

His recommendation was to offer one section of German II for the 2009-10 school year and then stop offering German. Some colleges require two years of a foreign language and this would accommodate that requirement.

Other options he presented included offering no German for 2009-10 or offering one section of German II and one section of German III.

Judson explained some of the reasons he proposed cutting the German position over other positions.

"World languages credits are not required for high school graduation, they are electives," he said.

Private colleges don't require a foreign language. Minnesota state colleges require two years of a foreign language for entrance but few students are refused entry solely on this, he said.

Of the area high schools, Detroit Lakes has Spanish only. Also, Walker, Wadena and Pequot Lakes are in the process of reducing German due to budget cuts as well, Judson said.

Superintendent Glenn Chiodo presented dollar amounts and total savings for the different options.

A part time Spanish teacher will need to be hired to cover the additional two sections of Spanish, with an estimated cost of $15,000.

For the one section of German II, it might be possible to utilize existing staff to teach the class, which would add no cost, Chiodo said. If it didn't work out to utilize existing staff, the cost to hire a teacher would be approximately $9,000. Chiodo also added about $3,500 in books and supplies for the addition sections of Spanish.

The total savings for having two sections of Spanish and one section of German for 2009-10 would be about $55,868 with existing staff or $46,868 with hiring a teacher, Chiodo said.

The school board voted unanimously to accept Judson's recommendation to have one section of German II next year then stop offering German.

After the meeting, German teacher Uscola and others who attended the meeting shared tears and hugs.

Uscola said she disagreed with some of the dollar amounts that Chiodo proposed.

"There's absolutely no financial advantage to have two sections of Spanish," she said. "You're not dealing with oranges and oranges there."

But, Uscola said she has to move on. After she retires this spring, she hopes to write children's books.

German student Jacob Froelich said he was disappointed that the entire program was cut.

"I think they could have looked at cutting somewhere else that would have been less dramatic," he said.

Froelich said he thought that by keeping German, the school could have drawn students from area schools that didn't have German.

Brandon Hanson, who is taking German III this year, was hoping to take four years of German.

"I was really hoping to complete four years here," he said. "I don't know if there's much I can do, online classes haven't worked well for others."