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District 203 considering dropping Latin as high school course offering

Naperville Unit District 203 administrators are recommending the elimination of Latin 1 as a high school course offering starting next school year, which prompted an emotional response from members of the community at Monday’s board meeting.

The recommendation, which board members will consider at a future meeting, resulted from an audit that revealed dwindling enrollment, in addition to research indicating Latin doesn’t benefit students as much as other second languages ​​after they graduate high school.

Students at Naperville Central and Naperville North high schools learned last week of the decision. Several spoke at Monday’s meeting, as did parents and Naperville Central Latin teacher Stacy Cunningham, to plead with school board members to reject the recommendation.

“I am not asking for Latin to become a charity program,” Cunningham said. “But I would ask for at least one more year of offering Latin 1 to see how numbers look now that we are very happily back to a more normal school year.”

Jayne Willard, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, offered several reasons for the recommendation to eliminate Latin.

She said no students at Naperville North are enrolled in Latin 1 this school year. And Latin 3 and 4 had to be combined into one class at both high schools because of the small enrollment numbers: 28 students at Naperville Central and 13 at Naperville North.

Willard also said Latin has been found not to be a major factor in postgraduate readiness or future employability. Counselors at both high schools said colleges are encouraging enrollment in Asian and European languages.

Willard said the elimination of Latin would be done gradually. Every high school student currently enrolled in Latin 1 would be able to finish the sequence through Latin 2, 3 and 4.

If Latin were eliminated, students would have a choice of languages ​​among American Sign Language, Chinese-Mandarin, French, German and Spanish.

According to district statistics, Latin 1 enrollment has steadily declined since the 2018-19 school year. At Naperville Central, it dropped from 43 students to 20 this year, while Naperville North has no students now compared to 21 in 2018-19.

“We are committing resources to a course that we’ve seen significant decline over the past 10 years, to where at one of our high schools it’s not even running,” he said. “We have a responsibility to bring that to (the school board).”

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