ORR school committee votes away foreign language requirement

Dec 15, 2020

Foreign language requirements at the Old Rochester Regional High School will be no more after a Dec. 9 decision by the ORR School Committee. 

The high school was supposed to implement a foreign language requirement starting with this year’s Freshman class of 2024. But with concerns about the high school’s limited language offerings and after an impassioned argument by committee member Jim Muse, the requirement was removed. 

Muse’s argument centered around avoiding implementing roadblocks for students’ ability to graduate. 

“The point is, what does a child need or student need to be a strong learner, problem solver and to be able to function well in our society,” he said. “That’s the criteria for a diploma.” 

But Muse was met with some skepticism from members of the committee, who believed that keeping the foreign language requirement makes OR seem more competitive to colleges when they assess a students’ aptitude. 

Committee member Heather Burke said that colleges often use academic rigor to determine admission, and foreign language adds to that assessment. 

But to Muse, the issue was more fundamental than college admissions. He said that if students aren’t able to receive a diploma, any post-high school learning opportunities they may have had would be squandered.

“It’s not necessary and it’s potentially harmful,” Muse said. “And I would like to see it removed.”

A motion to remove the requirement was passed, but Burke and Committee Chair Cary Humphrey voted against the proposition. 

Humphrey said his vote was due to a desire to postpone the requirement for one year due to the pandemic, rather than eliminate it entirely.