Hana Mower may eventually go into international business, so she wants to rack up as many Spanish classes as possible during her years at Zephyrhills High.
But the 16-year-old sophomore learned last week she could be about to encounter an obstacle to that goal.
The number of students signing up for Spanish at the high school is dwindling. As a result, Spanish classes could be offered strictly online at Zephyrhills in 2013-14, a move Mower finds deflating because she prefers learning in a classroom with a teacher right there for questions.
“I was truly hoping to keep my Spanish going,” said Mower, who already took two years of the foreign language and planned to enroll in Spanish III her junior year. “It makes me so sad and down about my future.”
Principal Andy Frelick, a former foreign languages teacher, said he’s not thrilled about the turn of events either, but at this point it’s something of a numbers game.
Many Zephyrhills High students already opt to take Spanish online, leaving fewer and fewer who prefer taking the class the old-fashioned way, Frelick said. In addition, more students have begun showing an interest in French.
Just 50 students signed up to take either Spanish I, II, III or IV for the coming 2013-14 school year, he said. That’s not enough to justify all those Spanish offerings and the two teachers who teach them.
So he’s mulling the options.
Offering Spanish online only is one possibility. A second solution could be sharing a Spanish teacher with another high school.
“I’m plugging away,” Frelick said. “A lot of kids have done a petition and I hear them loud and clear.”
Those Spanish-loving students hope to save not only their classes, but the school’s two Spanish teachers, who could end up being transferred to other schools.
“We are just so thankful for them,” Mower said. “It would be such a pain to see them go, and we really don’t want that.”
Sarah Duffy, 16, also a sophomore now finishing two years of Spanish, said she has nothing against online classes.
“But when you’re trying to learn a foreign language in depth, there’s nothing like having a teacher right there who can guide you,” she said.
Shelbie Pollock, 15, another sophomore hoping to take Spanish III next year, said she finds the thought of losing the Spanish classes heartbreaking.
“I mean, we live in Florida,” she said. “Spanish is spoken everywhere in Florida. I have a hard time understanding why we are cutting our academic classes when we have extracurriculars there is no need for.”
Pollock said Spanish is one of her favorite classes. She wants to become a doctor and envisions a day when she might care for patients who speak only Spanish.
“I refuse to do it online because I know from other kids’ experience and my own experience, I don’t learn well without a teacher,” Pollock said.