SAUGUS — Taking two years of world language classes is now a graduation requirement at Saugus High School.
Beginning this fall with the class of 2023, students will be required to take a minimum of two years of a foreign language — either Spanish or Latin — to graduate.
The requirement was removed several years ago because many students were not pursuing a bachelor’s degree after high school.
The School Committee wanted to give students who did not plan to go to college the option not to take it, said Chairwoman Jeannie Meredith. Rather than being a requirement, Spanish and Latin became optional offerings for students.
An Italian teacher retired two years ago, and with her went the Italian program, said Brendon Sullivan. A handful of students who had completed two years of the program were provided with Rosetta Stone, a language and literacy computer program. Mandarin was also offered for a short time but classes had low enrollment and it was removed from the curriculum, he said.
But the board noticed the shift was hurting students more than it was helping them, said Meredith.
“It could limit what their choices are,” she said. “We don’t want to limit their choices. We want their possibilities to be endless. By doing this we have kind of limited their choices and that was not our intention.”
The committee reinstated the regulation Thursday night.
Graduates are required to have taken four years of a foreign language to attend a four-year school and receive a bachelor’s degree, she said.
“Some kids in the ninth grade just don’t know that they want to go to college yet,” said Meredith. “Then they start looking at schools and realize they want to go and they didn’t take a language, so it hurts them on that end.”
About 72 percent of Saugus High School graduates attended a four-year college or university in 2019. The year before, 77 percent attended and in 2017 about 68 percent.
Sixteen percent of students attended a two-year college in 2019, more than 13 percent in 2018 and more than 30 percent in 2017.
To graduate, students need a total of 110 credits, including four years of English and math, three years of science and social studies, four years of wellness classes and one of fine arts.
Originally, Meredith proposed four years of a foreign language beginning with the incoming freshman class, but Superintendent David DeRuosi said the feat was nearly impossible.
“I question whether I have the staffing to cover every ninth-grader,” said DeRuosi. “School starts in two weeks. These kids picked their schedules in May.”
Creating a two-year requirement would leave the students three years to take the classes.
Sophomores, juniors and seniors will not be subjected to the regulation.
“We’re raising the rigor in the school system,” said member Linda Gaieski. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”