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Fate of Chinese program in limbo

Bethlehem BOE says low enrollment, difficulty finding instructor could lead to phase out

— Efforts are being made by the Bethlehem Central Board of Education to appropriately phase out the Chinese language program at the district after parents and students spoke out about the curriculum change.

District officials said last month it was becoming difficult to continue with the Chinese program because of low student enrollment. There was also the challenge of finding a certified teacher to teach with the appropriate visas to work in the United States. The original plan consisted of phasing out the program for most high school students, while asking students in the middle school or those entering ninth grade to choose a different language.

“It’s not that we’re advocating a phase out. It’s just that we have numerous issues we have to address,” said Superintendent Tom Douglas at the Wednesday, May 7, meeting. “One of the things we’re looking at is overcoming any of the staffing needs.”

Some parents felt students would fall behind their peers if they were forced to choose another language. The district was asked for a “true phase out,” where all students who already began taking the language would be able to complete the course through high school.

Assistant Superintendent for Educational Programs Jody Monroe said the district was looking into different options for the program. The first was to find a new teacher.

“We will tell the board that we would very vehemently continue searching hill and dale for a prospective candidate for the program at a full-time nature,” said Douglas.

If a teacher were found, the board would then have to discuss if they would continue to let sixth grade students participate in the program.

Douglas said if a teacher could not be found, the district would still recommend that middle school students select a different language for the coming year. However, parents said they would like the second option of providing online courses or distance learning opportunities to those already enrolled.

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