Volume 17 • Issue 23 | Oct. 29 - Nov. 4, 2004

I.S. 89 says adios to sixth grade Spanish

By Ronda Kaysen

I.S. 89 has cancelled plans for a half-year sixth grade Spanish class this year due to a $30,000 P.T.A. budget shortfall.

Citing last year’s disappointing fundraising event, Stars and Stripes, and low parent involvement, the P.T.A. slashed its budget from $93,000 to $60,000 also cutting its contribution to the library’s budget by 50 percent to $3,000.

“I.S. 89 needs money right now,” said Angela Benfield, co-president of the P.S./I.S. P.T.A. at an Oct. 26 Community Board 1 youth committee meeting. With the cuts, the P.T.A. has enough money to operate for the rest of the school year — providing they do not fund any additional events or activities during the year — but will need funds for next year. “We can’t take any losses; we can’t pay for anything for the kids,” she said.

Benfield cited waning parent involvement as a cause of the budget shortfall. She attributes parental disinterest to the brief three years that students spend at the school and to the fact that I.S. 89 is not a zoned middle school and so parents do not feel the same sort of neighborhood commitment as they do for P.S. 89, which shares a building with I.S. 89. Of the 250 I.S. 89 families, only 51 contributed money to the P.T.A. this year, compared with 111 P.S. 89 families of a total 350 families who contributed to the P.T.A.’s direct donation drive last year. An additional 22 percent of P.S. 89 parents made donations at other times during the year.

Last year, I.S. 89 offered a half-year Spanish class to sixth graders, and hoped to continue the program again this January. The school does offer Spanish for seventh and eighth graders, a full-year program that is paid for by the Dept. of Education. Because sixth grade Spanish is not compulsory, it is not funded by the Dept. of Ed. At a meeting between the P.T.A. and the school, principal Ellen Foote said she would cut the Spanish program instead of cutting the music program or various other smaller projects, in part because of staffing problems, Benfield said.

Foote was not available for comment. Stacey Peebles, program coordinator for I.S. 89, said the school was ambivalent about continuing the Spanish program this year even before the P.T.A. raised its budget concerns. “It’s very hard to find a licensed Spanish language teacher who is seeking a part-time position,” she said.

Heeding the youth committee’s suggestions, Benfield plans to research grant possibilities for the P.T.A. as a way to generate additional funds. In the meantime, she worries the P.T.A. may not be able to help fund the school’s music program next year, a funding cut that would affect all three grades. The P.T.A. currently contributes $30,000 of the music program’s budget. “I would hate to see that,” she said of the possibility of a cut to the program. “It’s very important for the children.”


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