Latin program faces potential cuts


Tony Morse

Translating a story from their textbook, freshmen and Latin II students Mary Hardy and Claire Folkins work together. The practice translations in the textbooks follow a story of the same characters throughout the four books. “I chose latin because both of my sisters took it and they both really enjoyed it. Also because they both said Herpel was the best teacher,” freshman and Latin I student Claire Folkins said. “Our class is really close and we all get along really well. We can joke around with each other but also get work done when it needs to get done.”

Due to an enrollment drop in Latin in recent years, the future of the program is being threatened. If more students do not start taking Latin I and II, the number of sections of the class will only continue to decrease as students move through levels III, IV and V.

“We are seeing that students have way more options for classwork than ever before. Advanced programs and new electives are spreading students thinner and thinner across curricular areas,” Latin teacher Tom Herpel said. “Even in the world languages department, students can choose between five different options. As a result, it is difficult to sustain healthy programs over a long period of time.”

The number of middle school students that chose to pursue Latin in seventh and eighth grade is also a factor. In order to promote the language, Latin IV and V students took field trips to the middle school to do Roman culture activities with the sixth graders so they could experience the language.

“The biggest problem is overcoming the incorrect stereotype that Latin is dead and cannot be used in everyday life. Students need to know how useful Latin can be. The second biggest issue is getting the word out to students both in the middle school and the high school.  It is hard for students to grasp how important Latin is without experiencing it for themselves,” Herpel said.

The issue of not having enough students to create foreign language classes is not isolated to West.

“Language programs across the district are starting to disappear. Normal budgetary restrictions coupled with fluctuating student enrollment, have caused some languages in the other high schools to fold,” Herpel said. “I can only speak for myself in the world language department when I say that the fear of not having the opportunity of teaching at West High in the future is real.”

Herpel and his students are trying to promote Latin to any student looking to take a language in order to ensure that the program lasts for years to come.

“My favorite part of Latin is definitely Mr. Herpel because he is such a fair and honest teacher and he wants his students to succeed,” sophomore and Latin III student Emma Smout said. “Latin has proved to be really useful in vocabulary and English classes and also in science classes. A lot of English words come from Latin words so when I don’t know what a word means sometimes I can trace it back to a Latin word and figure it out. I can make connections that not every student can make.”

Senior and Latin IV student Shazhan Mian also recognizes the significance of his decision to take Latin.

“My favorite part is the culture but also the video projects we have done so far because those are all a lot of fun but also a great immersive experience in the culture and content we learn in class,” Mian said. “I would encourage other students to take Latin because it will help hone your skills of analysis and the topics and history are also very intriguing. Overall the class is great and a worthwhile endeavor for any who chose to take it.”