We understand the need for school districts to save money, but cutting course ill serves students who invested time in the first year
The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District faces a dilemma. It must cut costs to remain solvent, and eliminating classes that do not attract large numbers of students is a logical choice.
But the decision to abruptly drop its entire American Sign Language program poses too great ahardship for high school students who already started the sequential program and need a second year to satisfy college entrance requirements.
Students do have the option of taking the course at Cuesta College’s North County Campus, but one student pointed out that she has no way to get to the campus. Others also may have barriers that would make that option difficult, if not impossible.
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Two solutions come to mind: Cuesta College could offer the course on the Paso High campus as a community outreach service, similar to classes it offers at Nipomo High and Arroyo Grande High in the South County.
Or, the Paso Robles school district could offer the second year of sign language next year and end the program after that. That would at least give students who already started the program the opportunity to complete it, while signaling to younger students that they will need to satisfy the language requirement some other way.
Ideally, we wish the district could continue offering the sign language program year after year. The loss of diversity in high school language programs is one of the most unfortunate hits education has suffered in recent years. Many schools that used to offer an array of languages — Spanish, German, French, Latin, American Sign Language — have been narrowing those choices. In an era when knowledge of languages is arguably more important than ever, given today’s global economy, that’s putting California students at adisadvantage.
Given the sorry state of funding for education, we understand that many school districts have little choice but to sacrifice some courses. We strongly urge, however, that they take a phased approach to eliminating academic programs, so that students who have already started a sequence of classes aren’t unduly penalized.
To that end, we call on the Paso Robles Unified School District to commit to providing a second year of sign language next year, either in partnership with Cuesta College or by itself.
If it takes financial help to do that, we suspect this is one of those times when service groups, PTAs and others interested in education would be willing to step up and contribute funding.