Naperville School District 203 Decides To Phase Out Latin

District 203 administrative building
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Naperville School District 203’s school board on Monday officially made the decision to phase out Latin in the coming years. This fall’s offering of Latin I at Naperville Central High School will be the final time it is available.

Students currently working through the language sequence will have the opportunity to continue the trajectory. By the end of the 2025-26 school year, Latin will be completely phased out of District 203 as current freshman complete their fourth year of the language.

Multiple reasons cited for dropping language

District 203 officials began discussing the cessation of Latin early this month. Administrators gave a deeper explanation behind the recommendation at Monday’s board meeting.

Declining enrollment was one factor. A decade ago, Superintendent Dan Bridges said 62 students enrolled in Latin I, and it began a downward decent in the 2013-14 school year with 52 students. In the current school year, a total of 21 students have been taking the introductory level of the language, which this year only is been available at Central because no students enrolled at Naperville North High School.

“This has been an ongoing trend that we’ve seen over time,” Bridges said.

Jayne Willard, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the decision to drop the program was not done in haste and was a recommendation brought forward to the board after an in-depth examination of district resources. “Every time we add, we also have to take a look at what has to be retired,” Willard said. “This is not an easy process. We know this can be very personal.”

Bridges and Willard said other factors that played into the decision included a look at broader post-graduation college and career readiness trends. The consensus, they concluded, was Latin was not a game changer in either area.

Board wrestled with decision

Ultimately, the board voted, 6-1 in favor of dropping Latin I in the 2023-2024 school year and subsequently phasing out additional levels of the language as current freshman work through all sequences of the program.

Board member Charles Cush, the lone dissenter, said a recurring theme from advocates prompted him to cast his “no” vote, and that was one of connection and community. Students who spoke about the program said the language gave them an opportunity to gather with like-minded people in the class.

“I’ve been really torn on this,” Cush said. “I don’t question the rationality of what (administrators) are bringing forward. What really gets me on this one, though, are some of the recommendations that are not necessarily around the data.”

Other board members, including President Kristin Fitzgerald, said they empathized with the people who wanted the language to stay. Fitzgerald, however, said she was hopeful students would consider taking other languages that touch on District 203’s mantra of promoting global citizenship and giving students an opportunity to have a glimpse into broader cultures.

“I am grateful that we have such a language focus,” Fitzgerald said.

 District 203 will continue offering American Sign Language, French, German, Mandarin and Spanish.

Naperville News 17’s Dave Fidlin reports.

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