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Swimmers, Chinese students speak out on cuts

Joshua Irvine

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Students from both girls swimming and diving and the Chinese program appeared yesterday at a District 214 board meeting to voice concerns over the future of their programs.

Girls swimming anticipates the loss of one of its coaches to spending cuts that will similarly affect other girls swim programs in District 214. The Chinese program faces even more dire circumstances; the entire program is slated to be dissolved in coming years.

Around a dozen individuals stood to speak in support of one or both programs.

Speakers for girls swimming included juniors Emily Born and Lucy Bornhorst, and freshman Annica Gerstung.

“The social and emotional benefits of being part of a team are immense,” Bornhorst said. “By being a no-cut sport, swimming and diving is a program that allows for inclusion, development, and a student support system that in this day and age we know is critical.”

Dan Blumenfeld, parent of two students involved in the school’s swim and water polo programs, also spoke. He offered criticism of the cuts to swimming and diving, characterizing them as “cookie cutter” and suggesting they would be harmful to both safety and learning.

Blumenfeld cited the American Red Cross safety recommendations for swim teams, which the girls swim team would be in violation of if they cut a coach. He pointed out the boys swim team was already in violation of those regulations.

Blumenfeld encouraged students to return to subsequent board meetings to continue to voice their complaints. “You need to keep coming back,” he said.

For the Chinese program, seniors Emmy Pascual and Olivia Marunde and sophomore Claire Dwyer spoke as a group, backed by a group of Chinese language students. The group cited the growing need for Chinese language speakers in global business and international relations.

“Less than 0.4 of American K-12 students are currently studying Mandarin, and as schools rapidly try to pull together a program to meet the growing demand for bilingual speakers, D214 wants to cut theirs,” Marunde said. “There are multiple students standing up here today who came to this district specifically for the Chinese program.”

Pascual requested the Chinese students be given the chance to promote their program independent of the French and Spanish language programs.

“We need to share our success stories. We need to debunk myths and misconceptions about the Chinese language. We want to explain how Chinese will help students in their future careers and our college decisions and admissions process,” Pascual said.

The group also distributed testimonials from past and present students of the Chinese program to the board members.

Sophomore Amélie Smithson, who represented the school as a diver at state, spoke in support of both the swim and dive and Chinese programs.

In addition, junior Kate Zotos, president of the Chinese Culture Club, offered a teary defense of the Chinese program. Her brother, alumni Justin Zotos, attends NYU Shanghai, and both previously lived in China.

Students from Buffalo Grove and Wheeling swim teams also defended their programs, and parents and local residents spoke up in support of the Chinese program.

“We appreciate the students’ comments very much,” associate superintendent Kurt Laakso said. (Superintendent Dr. David Schuler was not present at the board meeting). “One of the things we are committed to consistently is making sure that whatever changes we have to contemplate don’t result in reduced opportunities for students.”

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Joshua Irvine, Editor-in-Chief, CorrespondentLive

Senior Joshua Irvine is the film critic, staff cartoonist and an editor-in-chief of CorrespondentLive and has served on staff since 2015.  He has received...

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Swimmers, Chinese students speak out on cuts