French 7-8 likely not offered for 2022-2023 school year due to decrease in student enrollment

Sam Kimball

Due to a decrease in enrollment following the submission of class selections for the 2022-2023 school year, the ability of Redwood to offer upper-level French classes is now in doubt. While Redwood currently offers four courses of French, the most advanced being Honors French 7-8, this decline poses a serious threat to those hoping to continue their studies.

Current Honors French 7-8 teacher Bernadette Rattet has been teaching in the French department for the past 18 years and has rarely had to turn upper-level students away.

“In [all of my years] of teaching French at Redwood, only two of them have been years where French 7-8 or Honors French 7-8 could not be offered due to a decrease in enrollment,” Rattet said. “I am always sad [when that happens].”

Working in various aspects of the Redwood French Department since she started 18 years ago, Rattet enjoys the unique layout of the program. (Photo courtesy of Bernadette Rattet)

While Rattet would like to offer French 7-8 next year, she understands the rules and guidelines from the school district regarding minimum class size.

“The district requirement for a class is about 20 students, but sadly we are not currently at that number to offer the higher level class,” Rattet said. “It’s terrible since these are students that have been in the French program for the past three years. The fact that they want to go a fourth year, which is not required, means that they really want to learn French. These are students who are super motivated and unfortunately need to change their plans.”

One such student who hopes to continue their study of French is junior Stella Cico, a current third-year French student. While studying Spanish in middle school, Cico decided to move in a new direction, choosing to explore French upon her arrival in high school. Now, after higher-level classes are in doubt, Cico looks back and reflects on their decision.

“When I signed up for French during my freshman year, it was under the impression that I would continue through French 7-8. If I had known that [it] was not an option, I would most likely have stuck with Spanish, as I had studied that in middle school,” Cico said.

Cico also recognizes the importance of French 7-8 in the overall development of students’ abilities to learn the language, and now has to look for alternatives to the Redwood course.

“Without French 7-8, you don’t know enough to hold meaningful conversations,” Cico said. “It is the first high-level French class where you begin to develop and dive into the language. If this class is not offered at Redwood, I will have to look at taking it at [College of Marin] or elsewhere.”

Despite many students saddened by the likelihood that the course will not be offered, those who have chosen not to take the class cite scheduling as the main hindrance. This holds true for junior Delia Pickart, who began with French during her freshman year and has continued ever since.

Presenting in Rattet’s Honors French 7-8 class, students gain skills in speaking and conversing in the language.

“I love learning French vocabulary and immersing myself in the language. I chose to take French to try something new, and that is what the language gives you the opportunity to do,” Pickart said. “I personally did not sign up for [French 7-8.] Due to the complexities of scheduling, I had to choose other classes and sadly there was no room for French.”

As the school year winds down, those who would like to take French 7-8 next year only have a glimmer of hope. French 5-6 teacher Nicolle Plescia hopes that in the end, the class will be available as it is a cultivation of the past three years. 

“I am really concerned about my French 5-6 students who have worked so hard in their studies and might not have the option to take French 7-8 next year,” Plescia said. “French 7-8 is the cherry on the French cake. It is an opportunity to take your linguistic ability to the next level and fine-tune your skills. It really is a bummer.”

As of April 18, French 7-8 is no longer being considered for cancellation. Yet, according to Plescia, there is a possibility of combining French 5-6 and French 7-8, which poses alternate issues.

“A combination class leads to so many difficulties not only with the full curriculum but with the students’ range of understanding,” Plescia said. “It just isn’t fair to see these students, who have worked so hard, get higher- level learning taken away.”