DURHAM — Superintendent of Schools Kathryn Veronesi’s budget calls for a phase out of the Latin program starting next year.
Veronesi’s proposal, which she laid out for the Board of Education during two meetings last month, calls for an increase of 0.06 percent, or $22,370, from the current year. The proposed budget totals $35,502,062.
Her proposal includes a series of staffing changes, most notably reducing Latin staffing at Strong School by the equivalent of half a full-time position. The move would eliminate Latin for incoming seventh graders next year with the goal of phasing out the class over the next few years.
Students already taking Latin would still have the opportunity to continue until they graduate.
“This is a conversation that has come up for several years, and I guess dating as far back as 2012,” Veronesi said at a school board meeting last week. “And it's a decision that we didn't make definitively until this year.”
Spanish program staffing will increase by the same amount at Strong School.
Latin staffing will also decrease at Coginchaug High School, effectively combining the Latin 4 and 5 classes.
The gradual phasing out is primarily due to low enrollment numbers.
The district currently offers Spanish and French courses, which begin in seventh grade and continue through high school. Administrators are considering offering a new option, possibly sign language or Mandarin.
Veronesi said administrators are exploring other ways to offer Latin studies to interested students, including a school club or additional coursework.
Several residents spoke in favor of keeping the program at both budget meetings.
During a Feb. 13 meeting, Middlefield resident Joseph Ochterski, a high school chemistry teacher, said he has seen the benefits of Latin helping students understand words and terminology.
He shared a letter from his daughter, who studied Latin in the district and is now a graduate student studying Greek and Latin at the University of Vermont. Alice Ochterski listed the many benefits to studying the language, including problem solving, a better understanding of English grammar, and potentially higher standardized test scores.
Durham resident Katie Tietjen told the school board it “gives us a distinction from other similar districts in the state and it would be a real shame to see it go.” She also pointed out Latin words and phrases are used in the legal, medical, and scientific fields.
Regional School District 13 includes Durham and Middlefield.