Lack of enrollment threatens Liberty’s Japanese classes

Galen Posch

Liberty’s Japanese program has only one class this year due to declining interest, with no Japanese 1 class. The 2012-2013 school year could potentially be the last year for Japanese classes at Liberty.

Although only 39 students are taking Japanese this year, they remain passionate about continuing the program.

“The kids have been advocating a lot,” Japanese teacher Matthew Harvey said. “They wrote letters as an assignment and some of them did a petition and gathered a lot of signatures. You can definitely tell they care about Japanese.”

Harvey has also heavily advocated for preserving and possibly expanding the Japanese program.

“I’ve talked to Mr. Almy quite a bit and he seems open to the idea,” Harvey said. “I’ve spoken down on the middle school level as well with a teacher down there and [Maywood Principal] Mr. Morse to see what I can do to get more Japanese interest and maybe even start a Japanese class down there.”

Harvery partially attributes the declining interest in the Japanese program to the cutting of the cultural fair due to construction.

“I think when we had events like cultural fair it really helped a lot because students could walk around and sample the different cultures,” Harvey said.

The impact of Liberty losing its Japanese program may not just be limited to Japanese students. With no Japanese program, Liberty will be the only school in the Issaquah School District with less than three languages offered. In addition to Spanish, French and Japanese, Issaquah offers a sign language class, while Skyline offers a Mandarin Chinese class.

“It’s just about preserving choice,” Harvey said. “If we only have half as many course offerings, we have the danger that Liberty will be seen as inferior or something like that, when that’s not the case, it’s just that the students don’t have as many options as Issaquah or Skyline.”

Students who entered Japanese 1 in previous years are also concerned that they may not be able to take the three to four years of language they expected.

The remaining Japanese class combines the Japanese 2, 3, and 4 levels, which has required adaptation and flexibility from both the students and Harvey.

“I experimented with a split-level class before and it was very difficult,” Harvey said. “This year what I’m doing is I’m teaching the same lesson to everyone but I’m making the upper levels responsible for more.”

Even with the fate of the Japanese program up in the air in the coming years, Harvey still remains hopeful.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to rekindle Japanese and maybe even start a Japanese 1 course up again,” Harvey said.