Losing Time: The Untold Plight of Language-Learning Students at Troy High School and Troy Athens High School

Students are bussed over between schools because individual schools do not provide all the language classes.

Sally Kim, Staff Reporter

The Troy School District has decided to provide shuttles between Troy High School and Troy Athens High School this school year, as an alternative to offering all language classes at the individual schools. This year, Troy High School offers all levels of Chinese and German as well as Japanese 1 and 2, and Troy Athens High School offers Chinese 2, Japanese 3 and 4, and no levels of German. This decision has had a crippling effect on the students and parents of the Chinese and Japanese programs at both schools. 

“Many parents and students did not want to shuttle. As soon as they found out about this, many parents were emailing the school district to complain,” stated Fan Zhang, Troy Athens High School’s Chinese teacher.

While this decision has sparked controversy among students, the district made this decision in order to save money. “We were told that the district would not raise the number of classes a teacher taught in order to save on salary spending,” confirmed Katy Allen, Troy High School’s Japanese teacher. “They would not run a small class of students, and bussed them to Athens instead.” 

Jonathan Teh, Troy Athens High School senior and secretary of the National Chinese Honors Society, responded to this situation. “We were all really upset about it because when we talked to the district, they all told us that it’s to save money for different budgeting reasons, but we think that it’s really unfair. It’s a disgrace that our education and our class time are being taken for the district to save more money.”

The district claims to have made this decision because there weren’t enough students signing up to these language courses. “There were less students who signed up to take Chinese,” confirmed Zhang.

While it is true that less students signed up to take Chinese, this decision made many students who already signed up to take Chinese to drop their Chinese classes because of the inconvenience and the loss of class time from traveling back and forth between schools.

“At least more than ten students [already signed up for Chinese] dropped,” said Meiyu Chang, former Troy Athens High School Chinese teacher and current Troy High School’s Chinese teacher. 

Even worse, middle schoolers did not have an option to take Chinese 1 or Japanese 1 this school year. Jennifer Adams, an eighth grader at Boulan Park Middle School, said, “Everyone who chose Japanese and Chinese got a message stating they have no room for those two languages. Most of my friends chose Japanese but they had to take Spanish as their alternative.”

Because eighth graders cannot take Chinese 1 or Japanese 1, none of the students in the class of 2027 will be able to take Advanced Placement courses for those languages without testing out. 

Also, because Troy Athens High School does not offer a Chinese 1 class, no freshmen are taking Chinese 1 there. “At Athens, there are no 8th graders nor freshmen who take Chinese 1.” confirmed Chang. Underclassman have not started learning these languages yet, so they are less likely to commit enough to be bussed over to a different school every day.

“This way, we’re really hurt. Athens has had a Chinese program for more than 20 years. The east side of Troy will not have a chance to learn Chinese,” said Zhang. “I don’t want this program to go.”

“There is an unknown reason why less students signed up,” stated Zhang. “The school did not try to save the program.”

Chinese classes at Troy Athens High School have combined different levels in the same class for many years, which could’ve been an alternative solution to bussing students over. In fact, the German 3 and 4 classes at Troy High School are also combined. 

“I remember my freshman year there were only two AP Chinese students at Athens and they combined with our Chinese 1 class,” said Madison Emmitt, Troy Athens High School senior and president of the National Chinese Honors Society. “The teacher would teach us and [the two AP students] would do their study, like almost an independent study, but then she would give them instructions. And I think that worked out very well. And even last year, there was a combined class of Chinese 4 and Chinese 3 and I thought that was fine as well.”

“It’s [combined classes] been that way for many many years,” stated Zhang. “In Athens, [Meiyu Chang] always taught combined classes. And then last year, when I even took the job [as the Troy Athens High School Chinese teacher], I was even assigned three levels together.”

Some Japanese classes last year were also combined. Allen said, “This is the first year in the last three or four years that AP Japanese has not been offered. Previously it was run as a split class taught at the same time as Japanese 4 or independent study.”

Although AP Japanese is not offered this year, Jay Shyn, a Troy High School student, expresses his hope to take it, “I’ll take Japanese AP no matter what happens, if I can. I invested three years already.” 

Emmitt also added, “I think it’s honestly a waste of money to pay for the bus. We almost always have the one bus driver that is five to ten minutes late every day.”

According to the current system, students are to leave their previous class five minutes early, take the bus, and miss the first five minutes of the language class. However, this system is not working as it was designed to. 

“Usually it’s longer than that because the bus is not on time,” comments Chang. “The bus is always at least five minutes late. On average, they will miss 15 to 20 minutes of my class. And they’re also missing the previous hour and the next hour.” 

Chang also said, “Sixth hour is the most problematic.” Sixth hours in both schools start at 1:14 and end at 2:10.  “The earliest [Athens students] arrive at my 6th hour is 1:25 and sometimes 1:30.” said Chang. However, because the school bus must take students home after school, Troy Athens High School students that have sixth hour at Troy High School must get back to their home school by 2:10. “And they have to leave at 1:55. So you can count how long they can stay in my class. It’s about 30 minutes maximum if they want to take the bus.”

According to Chang, two of the students in her sixth hour offered to drive the students from Troy Athens High School to Troy High School, back to Troy Athens High School every day. “I feel bad because they have to spend their own gas money to drive these students here, which is not fair,” said Chang. 

The distance between Troy High School and Troy Athens High School is 4.6 miles, so these seniors have to drive 9.2 miles every day for their Chinese class.

“[The gas money] really adds up over time,” said Teh.

Traveling back and forth from schools also causes other problems. “The loss of class time was hard at first because I felt like we missed instructions,” Emmitt shared. “It’s hard because there are things that sometimes you want to go to your teacher to talk about before or after class to talk privately. And you can’t do that with Chinese. So if I have something I need to talk to her about, I have to talk to her about it in front of the whole class, which I don’t love.” 

Phuong Giang, a Troy Athens High School student who comes to Troy High School for Chinese 3, shared that because she comes here for fourth hour, she eats lunch at Troy High School instead of her own school. “Sometimes, if I forget my student ID, they don’t let me eat lunch,” she said.

Years ago, Brigitte Catlin, Troy High School’s German teacher, traveled between the two schools to teach. This is not the case now and German is currently only offered to Troy High School. “We are afraid Chinese will be the same thing now,” worried Chang.

Zhang also added, “There are less students signing up, but it doesn’t mean that none of them are signing up. We still have the class. If the counselor can say we might run it, so keep trying, we might start having more students signing up and have enough to offer the class at Athens.”

Teachers, students and parents involved in the Chinese and Japanese program are hopeful to have those language classes at their own schools next school year. “The teacher is available, the students are there, the parents want to keep the program there,” says Zhang. “But why did it not happen?”