Latin May Be Phased Out At Naperville’s District 203

District 203 Administration building
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Latin could be phased out at Naperville School District 203 in the 2023-2024 school year if the school board approves a proposal presented by administrators at the most recent meeting. A loyal group of advocates, however, are hoping decision-makers heed their pleas to keep the program.

Administrators presented the board with a number of curricular additions and subtractions at the board’s Oct. 3 meeting. The Latin program was the only one to receive public feedback from students, parents, and community members.

Phased-Out Approach For Latin

If the current recommendation does take shape, as presented, all upper levels of the foreign language would still be in next year’s high school course catalogs. Only the first level of Latin would be omitted from the list of offerings in the 2023-24 school year. “Students enrolled in Latin will be able to complete the sequence identified in their four-year plan,” Jayne Willard, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said.

Additional levels would be dropped as current enrollees work through the program. Latin could cease to exist at the district after the 2025-26 school year, when current freshmen are taking the fourth year of the program as seniors.

‘I’m very lucky to be a part of it’

At the Oct. 3 meeting, the board heard from nearly a dozen parents, students and other community members who sent a plea to keep the program intact during the public comment portion of the agenda. “It has allowed me to dive deeper into a language,” John Campbell, a senior at Naperville Central High School, said. “It’s something very unique to District 203, and I’m very lucky to be a part of it.”

Latin reportedly has been a popular option for students who have specific learning needs, including those with audiolingual difficulties. This scenario was shared repeatedly as one speaker to the next stepped up to the microphone to address the board.

Resident Nancy Turner said District 203’s offering of Latin played a part in her family’s decision to live in the community. “Latin is not an expensive program to keep,” Turner said. “All it requires is a teacher and some books.”

Declining enrollment attributed

Administrators said declining enrollment is the reason behind the recommendation, noting the number of participants has been steadily decreasing. While the pandemic did impact enrollment figures in recent years, the drop reportedly began before the onset of COVID-19. “These are not easy decisions, and we keep our diverse student population at the center of all of our recommendations and discussions,” Willard said.

Latin, which once was a popular foreign language offering in school districts across Illinois, has been dropped in many of them in more recent decades in favor of other options.

District 203 recently added American Sign Language to its offerings, alongside French, German, Mandarin and Spanish. All are still on the docket for next fall.

This is not the first time Latin’s future has been broached within District 203, Willard said, pointing to internal conversations among high school faculty. “Every year the conversation is had at the department level,” Willard said. “This has nothing to do with our educators. Our educators are fantastic.”

Upcoming Vote on Latin Program

The school board will vote on Latin’s future and other course additions and subtractions at their next meeting on Oct. 17.

Naperville News 17’s Dave Fidlin reports.

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