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FUHSD revisits world language removal discussion

In+order+for+a+language+to+be+preserved%2C+it+must+contain+healthy+enrollment+numbers.+This+signals+the+district+that+if+the+language+were+to+be+maintained+in+the+future+it+could+be+sustained+over+the+5+language+levels+of+each+course.+
Olivia Yuan and Apurva Krishnamurthy
In order for a language to be preserved, it must contain healthy enrollment numbers. This signals the district that if the language were to be maintained in the future it could be sustained over the 5 language levels of each course.

  • The original plan, Option A, was to remove one language from each FUHSD school (French from Fremont, Chinese from Homestead, Japanese from Lynbrook, Cupertino, and Monta Vista)
  • The new plan, Option B, will remove one language from three FUHSD schools but keep Japanese at Lynbrook and Chinese at Homestead
  • The final decision will be made in January 2024 and announced when course selection opens for the 2024-2025 school year

The FUHSD Board of Trustees held a meeting at the district office on Nov. 7 to discuss alternative options for their proposed cuts to world language programs at FUHSD schools. After their initial announcement in the spring, a large outcry from the community led district administrators to propose a newly revised plan. Despite not coming to a final decision during the meeting, the district presented recently released enrollment data and welcomed community feedback to consider when discussing a permanent resolution.

At the meeting, they introduced their updated proposals. Option A, the original plan, would remove one language from all five FUHSD schools. Alternatively, Option B would preserve Lynbrook’s Japanese and Homestead High School’s Chinese programs, while eliminating one language at each of the other three schools. Fremont High School would still lose its French program, while both Monta Vista High School and Cupertino High School would no longer offer Japanese courses.

A key factor in deciding to reconsider the initial proposal was the inaccuracy of enrollment projections, which was covered at this meeting by speakers Denae Nurnberg, the coordinator of data and assessment, and Jason Crutchfield, the director of administrative services. The two presented a detailed report of related statistics, including the December 2022 prediction that the district would experience a decline in enrollment of 666 students for the 2023-24 school year. However, after revisiting the numbers in August 2023, it was discovered that the actual change in enrollment was only 366 students, due to the closing of Summit Denali Public School in Sunnyvale. The speakers also emphasized the problem of overstaffing that results from declining enrollment, stating that for the past six years, FUHSD has been overstaffed 10 class periods per year, incurring a cost of over $2.4 million.

“Even though we received a lot of emails from community members in the 2022-23 school year regarding this issue, we needed to wait for this school year to start to be able to see the most updated enrollment data first,” Board President Rosa Kim said.

The district determined that 135 students enrolled across all five levels of a language course constitute healthy enrollment.  To establish this threshold, administrators reviewed data prior to the official meeting which stated that average class sizes should be 32.5 students, which totals 163 students for all five levels of a language. Approximately 80 percent of 163, 135 was decided as the benchmark to classify healthy language enrollment. Currently, enrollment data shows that both the Lynbrook Japanese and Homestead Chinese programs have more than 135 students, with 157 and 220 students enrolled, respectively. 

After the main presentation, the board allowed community members to voice their opinions. Members of Homestead’s National Chinese Honor Society, Homestead’s World Language Department Head Muriel von Stein and Lynbrook Class of 2019 alumna and former Japanese Club President Charlotte Zhang all spoke at the meeting. Many thanked the board members for considering community opinions and advocated for Option B to be implemented over the original plan.

“At the meeting, I talked about the data that was being used to make the decision and also expressed my disappointment that the district was looking at the issue from an operational standpoint instead of considering what was best for students,” Zhang said. 

When FUHSD made its first announcement regarding world language class removals in March 2023, numerous community members voiced their concerns about the issue and asked the district to reconsider. Many articulated that they disliked the idea of having fewer language options to choose from and were also worried about the effects on future FUHSD students. For instance, a group of Lynbrook students started a petition on change.org that amassed a total of 2,488 signatures as of December 2023, hoping to preserve the Japanese program by raising awareness about the issue.

“When I heard about Option B, it was a sigh of relief,” senior and Japanese Honor Society President Rickey Chiu said. “The Japanese program has been like a home to me, so hearing about its potential removal last year hit close to home.”

Due to fluctuations in enrollment predictions, the final decision will be delayed until early January 2024 so the district administrators will be able to use new statistics to make the most informed decision. Although there will not be any more formal meetings regarding this topic, community members may continue to voice their concerns through emails to the board members.

“The final decision will be revealed when course selection for the next school year opens for students,” Superintendent Graham Clark said. “In a sense, the students are the ones deciding because these classes will only be kept if there are enough signups for them. But until the announcement, I am confident that Option B will be chosen.”

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Lilly Wu, Opinion Editor
(she/her) Lilly is a junior and the opinion editor for the Epic. Some of her hobbies include dancing, watching cdrama and going to amusement parks.

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