WARREN, NJ – The German language program has been a topic of discussion at the last two meetings of the Watchung Hills Regional Board of Education.

At issue is the continuing instruction of higher lever German, levels 3,4 and 5. The district notified students that German level 3, 4 and 5 courses may only be offered online due to low enrollment.

The administration’s recommendation is to offer the courses through online provider Educere and have either “a fixed period during the school day or during the lunch period or after school hours” where a teacher would be available to students, according to Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett at the June 9 board meeting.

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“Given the declining enrollment the high school is facing in the coming years combined with changing student interests and needs, the administration and board are looking for creative solutions to be able to continue to offer courses with dwindling student interest, including virtual school or courses via online providers,” said Jewett. “We are limited with our resources but we are tasked with finding the best way to utilize them for our students.”

After receiving feedback from parents who voiced concerns at the last meeting, the board considered some alternatives.

“The administration and board are committed to providing an option to allow students who wish to continue studying German beyond levels 1 and 2, despite very low interest in levels 3, 4 and 5,” said Jewett. “As we are unable to accommodate traditional German level 3, 4 and 5 courses in our schedule next year based on student requests, we are looking to offer an alternative option for the small number of students who wish to continue their study of German.”

The German language courses are now taught by teacher Claude Chapel.

One of the main concerns voiced by parents at the May 18 board meeting was the lack of ability to practice conversational skills if the course was only offered online.

“The recommendation we landed on originally when the education committee discussed this was that there would be the online component for levels 3, 4 and 5 but there would be a specific period where Mr. Chapel would be available to the students,” said Board Vice President Robert Morrison. “On the conversational side where we felt there was the most concern, that resource would be there for them with Mr. Chapel. We discussed the interest of the students and only six of the 25 we surveyed said they were interested.”

“Students would still be eligible for German Honors Society with the criteria that exists now,” said Jewett. “They will be receiving a grade on their transcript but it comes from a virtual school; it is not appropriate for us to include that in the GPA as we don’t control the grading for any online course. Guidance did meet with every student, many went home to talk to their parents before they came back."