Backers of Hebrew at Lowell scrambling

School's out for the summer — and the jury's still out on the fate of Hebrew classes next fall at Lowell High School in San Francisco.

Because of shrinking enrollment, the program must find $20,000 a year in outside funding to survive.

Program backers hope to hear next month about the status of a grant proposal submitted to a local foundation. Another local fund may be contributing $5,000.

Lowell is believed to be the only public high school in the Bay Area to offer instruction in Hebrew. This past spring, 26 students were enrolled in two classes.

"There are quite a few signed up, so if funding does come through, there will be a decent contingency taking the class," said Tami Zemel, a parent of two teens signed up to take Hebrew in the fall.

According to teacher Michal Dramen, up to 20 new students have expressed interest in starting Hebrew and some 21 or 22 hope to continue with the language.

"We'll have it, I hope," said Dramen, an Israeli native who has been teaching Hebrew at Lowell since 1989.

Because she lacks the California teaching credential now required at Lowell, Dramen may teach her students next year as an instructor through San Francisco State University. The classes would still be taught at nearby Lowell, however.

Alan Wendroff, a board member with the Lowell Alumni Association and a professional fund-raiser, is working on grant proposals to save the language program.

Besides being the lone public high school in the area to offer Hebrew instruction, Wendroff said, "We feel it's a vital language because of all of the trade between Israel and Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area."

Lowell Principal Paul Cheng couldn't be reached Wednesday for comment. Hebrew is one of nine languages taught at Lowell, which accepts students through a competitive admissions process.