Foreign languages have been pared down at Watertown High School, but if he had his way, WHS Headmaster Steve Watson would be adding to the language options – possibly Mandarin Chinese or Arabic.
The subject of foreign language came up during school budget discussions, and Town Councilor Cecilia Lenk said she would like to see some new languages offered. Superintendent Ann Koufman said high school officials are looking into that.
At the moment WHS has Spanish, Italian, French and Armenian classes, however, the school may lose French due to budget cuts. At some point, Watson said he would like to add some non-European languages that may be useful for Watertown students.
"I want to add a program at the high school, maybe Mandarin or Arabic," Watson said. "Those are significant to the world today and are spoken by hundreds of millions of people."
Other Massachusetts high schools have Mandarin classes, including Lexington, Needham and Brookline.
Arabic is not as common, but Charlestown High School in Boston has an Arabic program (see more details in this Charlestown Patch article), and in 2010 Norwell High School became the second public high school in the state to offer the language, according to wickedlocal.com/norwell.
Federal grants may be available to Watertown if school officials start an Arabic program, Watson said.
The U.S. Department of Education offers $27 million of Foreign Language Assistance Program grant, which "gives grants directly for K-12 programs that teach languages deemed critical to U.S. security and economic needs," according to an Education Weekly article.
Watson said he and Rob Stergis, the K-12 English as a Second Language & Foreign Language Coordinator, will study the issue next year.
"We will do a community survey to see what other languages the community would like to be offered," Watson said.
The survey will also look at the possibility of starting a foreign language program in the elementary schools, Watson said.
Watson does not expect to have the new foreign language programs at the high school right away, but hopes to start it when the budget improves.
"Maybe in two years we will start something," Watson said.