Portuguese is coming back to ORRHS

Jan 20, 2021

Old Rochester Regional high schoolers will be able to learn Portuguese again, after the School Committee approved a plan to reinstate classes in the language at a Jan. 20 meeting. 

At first, classes would only be available for ninth and 10th grade students. The district may choose to hire a full-time teacher who would develop a full four-year program.

Old Rochester Regional High School Principal Michael Devoll said that he envisions the school’s next language teacher hire will be certified in both Spanish and Portuguese. 

Before the program was removed, the school had trouble filling its Portuguese classes. Devoll said that nine years ago, the Portuguese class had 17 students — only two more than the minimum number of students. One year later, enrollment dropped to seven. 

“We have just a tremendous number of needs elsewhere,” committee member Heather Burke said, adding that she doesn’t think resources should be expended on something that might not be popular among students. 

But Devoll said he feels confident from his interactions with students that the interest is there for a Portuguese program. 

Even if there wasn’t enough interest in the program for classes to run, the class would be an elective with no bearing on whether students are able to graduate from the high school. 

“As an elective — if it doesn’t run, it doesn’t run,” the principal said. 

The committee ultimately voted to approve the program. The decision follows a committee vote to remove foreign language graduation requirements at its Dec. 9 meeting. 

“If we’re able to offer more and differing opportunities to our student body,” committee member Jim Muse said, “then I can’t see why we wouldn’t give that opportunity.”