Old Rochester Regional High School reinstates language requirement

Dec 11, 2019

Old Rochester Regional High School graduates in the class of 2024 will have one more requirement to complete than their peers in the class of 2023: two years of a foreign language. 

The ORR School Committee voted on Dec. 11 to reinstate a former foreign language graduation requirement that was abandoned some 12 years ago. 

Michael Devoll, the school’s principal, explained that the requirement is part of the state common core curriculum, and schools that don’t meet that requirement must explain why. 

He also explained that most students do take two years or more of Spanish, Latin, or American Sign Language the languages that the school currently offers (ASL courses are offered through a local college). For students who struggle with language learning, Devoll pointed out that he can waive the requirement. 

Heather Burke asked if the school planned to add more language options. Devoll responded that the school has recently phased French out, and has been looking into a Portuguese program, though it has not yet made any commitments. The principal is also open to students being online global citizens and using online classes to expand the language repertoire. 

Burke wanted to know why Devoll would make the two year graduation rule when it just adds more stress for students. 

Devoll responded that ORR is now the only school on the Southcoast without the requirement, and that “I don’t anticipate this being a reason a student doesn’t graduate.” He said even if a student fails to complete the requirement in their first and second year, they still have two more chances to complete it. 

Old Rochester Regional Vice Principal Vanessa Harvey explained that she speaks three languages, and made a passionate case for language learning, saying “you make a connection with people, knowing another language.” 

In the end, the new/old requirement passed, with four school committee members voting in favor of it, one against, and one abstaining.