NORTH KINGSTOWN—On Tuesday evening, the North Kingstown School Committee approved Superintendent Philip Auger’s suggestion to delay eliminating specific foreign language strands for the upcoming school year in order to save money in the budget. Over the past few months, students and teachers appealed to Auger and the committee that they not cut languages such as Portuguese and German at North Kingstown High School.
The committee only approved reducing the language department by a 0.2 full-time staff member this year, as well as looking at making the same reduction in the following school year.
“What I would like to do based on several discussions with committee members and hearing [the community’s] concerns about this, is to make the cuts this year and look to reduce by another 0.2 next year,” said Auger. “I would then like to make a decision at that time if it is the wish of the committee to reduce a language strand, and that if we make that decision, it will be based purely on enrollment.”
“That gives a season of signing up for courses and time to see where that lands, and then we would make decisions to reduce or not, and to what extent based purely on enrollment, as we do with other strands,” he added.
When Auger presented his preliminary budget in January, he had originally suggested the phased-out elimination of a foreign language strand, either Portuguese or German, in order to reduce spending. Students and teachers since have expressed opposition to such a move, stating that the language department at NKHS is one of the most successful programs in the state and any reduction would harm student achievement.
“I have done so many things [in the German program],” said junior Sadie Cohen in February. “I have gone to Germany with the program twice, and it has just been a great experience. I know so many other students have had it too, and the German program has made me better as a student and as a citizen of the world.”
“Portuguese is an important language, both locally, worldwide and at the college level,” said Paula Schiavone, a teacher of Portuguese and Spanish at NKHS. “I think it is important to give our students the best competitive edge right now, and Portuguese does so.”
At the Feb. 4 school committee meeting, Robert Jones had suggested that the district seek out funding from the University of Rhode Island to help keep German at North Kingstown, namely because the university’s International Engineering Program holds German as one of its core languages.
“I think it is worth a conversation,” said Jones. “With the amount of money the state throws, especially the German part of the program [as] it is the second largest component of their engineering program, you’d think they’d be willing to put a little money where the seeds will be taught.”
At the time, school committee chair, Kimberly Page, had stated that she was not optimistic that any state funds would be given through the university because of similar budget issues, although she praised Jones’ idea.