Changes are on deck for the world language program at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in the coming school year, with a plan to reintroduce Portuguese as full academic course.
The topic came up for discussion during the all-Island school committee meeting last week when committee members briefly revisited the issue of Spanish in the elementary schools.
At a meeting six months ago committee member Michael Marcus moved without success to remove Spanish from the curriculum in lower grade levels at the Chilmark and West Tisbury schools. The motion was voted down but sparked discussion about perceived problems with the quality of the program, which is taught part time.
As that discussion continued last week, Mr. Marcus suggested Portuguese could be taught instead.
“Considering the community we live in and the history of this community, having such a strong Portuguese background and the amount of Brazilians in the community, it almost seems bizarre that we pick Spanish,” he said. “And wouldn’t it be amazing if our kids in elementary school were learning Portuguese?” he said.
Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss said in fact he and acting principal Matthew D’Andrea have been working on bringing a Portuguese language class back to the high school.
“A little history: There was a Portuguese program here at the high school for a number of years and we had a very difficult time getting a licensed educator,” Mr. Weiss told the committee. He said the last time the program was tried was in 2002.
But he said when school administrators learned there would be some staffing changes in the fall with the German teacher leaving, they decided to advertise for one full-time Portuguese and German teacher or two part-time teachers, one for each language. If the hiring is successful, Mr. Weiss said freshmen will have the option of taking Brazilian Portuguese in September.
Mr. Weiss said later that he expects to know in the next few weeks whether a teacher will be hired.
French and Spanish are also still taught at the high school. The school’s foreign language programs have been affected by staff shortages and turnovers in recent years. In 2010 public school leaders announced a goal of developing fluency in a second language among graduating seniors. But the following year as the school experienced a wave of retirements, some positions went unfilled and the stated goal faded from view.