Glendale Unified officials this week did an about-face, announcing they would enroll a complete class of German-language kindergarten students at Franklin Elementary School in fall 2012 rather than initiating a drawdown of the program as previously planned.
Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd of parents at the school Tuesday night, Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan said the district would also create a task force that includes "a selective group of parents ... to show that the German program is a viable option."
The task force will be responsible for studying all facets of the German dual-language immersion program and will report back in the coming months, Sheehan said.
Many of the German program's parents said they were relieved by the one-year reprieve, and were ready to work hard to ensure the longevity of the program.
"We want it to be crystal clear that this community believes that there should be no change in the German program," parent Janet Herold said while addressing the crowd.
Launched in 2008, German is one of six languages now offered within Glendale Unified's burgeoning Foreign Languages Academies of Glendale, commonly referred to as the FLAG programs. It is one of three languages — the others being Spanish and Italian — taught at Franklin Elementary, a federally designated magnet school.
During a presentation to school board members on Dec. 13, Deputy Supt. John Garcia said the German program was facing serious challenges. The number of applicants lagged behind those of Glendale Unified's other FLAG programs and teachers credentialed to teach German in California had proven scarce.
He recommended that the district phase out the program, starting with a single additional kindergarten class in fall 2012 that would consist solely of siblings of current German enrollees. He also suggested adding a French program.
The proposal sparked outrage from parents, who said the district was breaking its commitment to families who had invested in the program. In emails and phone calls, and at the meeting Tuesday, they called on the district to continue offering German.
They also criticized district leaders for failing to keep parents abreast of issues and possible changes.
The superintendent apologized for not communicating better with parents. "We understand this is an emotional topic," Sheehan said. "I will make a commitment to do a better job that we include the parents in the decisions in the future."