Low enrollment brings CPS to eliminate German, Japanese courses

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Schools is working to eliminate Japanese and German language classes from its curriculum in the coming years due to low enrollment, according to CPS Community Relations Director Michelle Baumstark. 

"We have to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollar," Baumstark said. "If we have courses that we're offering where the enrollment is declining, then we often have to make difficult decisions."

This decision was made at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

Baumstark said this will be a slow process to ensure that students who are already in the classes now will be able to go through all four levels of the languages. 

The district has started to phase out the languages by not offering German or Japanese one at the middle school level.

"We don't have any students that are now moving up to high school that will have taken the pre-reqs," Baumstark said. 

Baumstark said there is no definitive answer for when the languages will not be offered at any level.

"It all depends on enrollment and student interest over the next few years," Baumstark said. 

Baumstark said right now there is only one student taking German four.

"You can't have a class with one student, and you're paying a full time teacher to teach one kid," Baumstark said. "That is really financially irresponsible."

Baumstark said the teachers teaching the classes right now have other certifications, and will teach other classes besides German and Japanese.

Baumstark said parents were notified of the decision through a letter that was sent out back when the decision was made. 

Troy Zars is a professor at the University of Missouri, and has a son who is a freshman at Hickman High School. He has been speaking out on twitter against the elimination of the two language classes.

"It's important for him to learn German because we have a strong family affiliation," Zars said. "We have friends that live there, and we travel there from time to time."

Zars said German has a large impact on his son.

"He has had a strong interest in learning German for several years," Zars said. If he is not allowed to have this mechanism for learning this particular language, it will have a significant effect on him."

Zars said not learning German will make his son feel "left behind" by other members of his family.

Zars said the four main languages in the G7 outside of English are French, German, Italian and Japanese. G7 refers to the seven major economies in the world.

"These languages represent two of the major economies of the world," Zars said. "It's really an advantage for our students to be able to learn German and Japanese so they can have future prospects for interactions with these inter economies around the world."

Zars said he does not think low enrollment is an issue, because numbers for German and Japanese classes are in the 30s.

"The average that is pointed out in the budget from 2016, 2015 and 2014 is that an average number of students per class is 18, and this is well above 18," Zars said. 

Zars also said he doesn't believe cutting these classes would save any money, because CPS plans to keep the teachers in charge of the language classes currently. 

"I don't understand how there could be any cost savings," Zars said. "It would just be shifting people's duties around."