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Lyndhurst School Officials: We'll Bring Back Sign Language

Lyndhurst High School junior Nicole Bruno, sophomore Laura Lehman and senior Sarah Almeida sign to each other Photo Credit: Anthony Locicero
Ten students attended Monday's Board of Education meeting to pledge their support in saving the high school's American Sign Language program. Photo Credit: Anthony Locicero
Lyndhurst Board of Education President James "Chizzie" Vuono, Interim Superintendent Dr. James Corino, and Assistant Superintendent Shauna DeMarco Photo Credit: Anthony Locicero
Tammylee Roman implored the Board of Education to retain the American Sign Language program Photo Credit: Anthony Locicero

LYNDHURST, N.J.– Lyndhurst school officials say they're hoping to revive their high school's American Sign Language program, which was dropped after the teacher resigned.

"We find ourselves in a situation now where it’s not sustainable," Assistant Superintendent Shauna DeMarco said. "We don’t want to say a program is going to continue if it can’t be sustained."

However, she said: "We're working to secure two ASL instructors.

"We are not pulling it out of our program of studies. The only reason for the removal is the departure of the teacher. When we bring this back, we'll bring it back for the full gamut," DeMarco said.

"I assure you that pulling this out of the curriculum was one the last things we wanted to do months ago when it came to our attention that we may be losing our teacher," she added.. "It is extremely important to me because I have a deaf family member. I do understand the importance of connecting with so many people in our world."

Students looking to take the American Sign Language 1 course, or who have already completed it, will be instead placed into an Italian class, she said.

The reason is likely due to the number of students already enrolled in Spanish, DeMarco said.

"We have a very successful Italian program, and we want to sustain that so we can continue to offer that at every level," she added.

LHS students are required to take two years of a language, but some colleges require three or four years of a language.

Affected students will receive a letter to show colleges that explains why they couldn't complete their language requirement or why they didn't complete ASL 2, DeMarco said.

Several parents, including Roseann Almeida, suggested the Board of Education seek other options such as "a virtual or off-site class."

"The class not only taught us sign language but it taught us about deaf culture, which I found very interesting," said Sarah Almeida, an LHS senior.

Almeida said she's worked with special needs children since she was in fifth grade and is visiting colleges that offer sign language or deaf education courses.

"Some of the kids who have taken the course have went on to sign at events in MetLife Stadium," said parent Tammylee Roman.

Sophomore Laura Lehman said she signs with her stepfather's aunt in Spain via Skype.

A petition was created by parent Eric Gold asking the BOE to reinstate ASL for the 2016-17 school year.

A lack of candidates has prevented that from happening, DeMarco said.

"I can’t stress enough the struggle with getting instructors for ASL strictly because the private sector provides them with more financial opportunities," she said.

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