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Fairfield Schools May Lose World Language Classes

Richard Joslin hopes he can make the Board of Education’s job easier. He and a few other parents have been visiting Fairfield’s train stations, supermarkets and town meetings to collect signatures on a petition to start a referendum to restore the $800,000 cut from Fairfield's schools by the Representative Town Meeting. The group has until Old Town Hall closes Wednesday to collect 1,748 signatures.

“We’re optimistic,” Joslin said. “But we won’t really know until tomorrow at 4:30.”

But inside the Board of Education’s offices, Fairfield’s school board and Superintendent David Title dealt with the task of trimming $2.8 million from the planned spending for 2011-12 . The biggest proposed change came in the number of teachers and other staff members.

Under the plan, the district would no longer hire six part-time high school teachers to add to the English, math, science, social studies, technical education and physical education departments nor would it add a middle school music teacher. Fairfield would also not replace four retiring part-time high school teachers.

The hardest hit department would be world languages. French and Chinese classes at the high schools would be condensed, and middle school and elementary school classes would be cut back. For sixth grade, Spanish classes would be held only three days per week instead of every day. Elementary schools would also have half the Spanish classes they now have, cut from 100 minutes per week to 50. The decision also means that six foreign language teachers would be laid off.

“It’s not fun to lay people off,” said Board of Education member Pamela Iacono. “But it’s where we are. … The $2.8 million has to come from somewhere.”

The other major change Fairfield’s students could see next year is in extra-curricular activities. Both high schools might see a cut to funding for non-sports extracurricular activities, meaning some after-school clubs may be canceled or have smaller budgets. Junior varsity basketball and some intramurals at the middle schools could also disappear.

And starting next fall, student-athletes could be paying fees for each team they join. Sports would cost $125 to $225 per season with a $500 per-family maximum. Title said low-income families would not have to pay the fee.

If the parents get their signatures and a majority of voters restore the funding, the board agreed that restoring world languages and getting rid of “pay-to-play” for sports would be the top priorities. But until then, the board will hear from parents in another meeting Thursday and make its final decisions at a meeting May 24.

What do you think of the possibility of losing world languages classes and paying for high school sports? Share your opinion in the comments below.

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