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Electives on the chopping block? Possible budget cuts for the next school year

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Graphic Credit: Adam Torres
Graphic Credit: Adam Torres

Dec. 14, 12:49 p.m. – CORRECTION – In the original article, Dr. Howerton was quoted as stating “Cutting course options for students is something that parents, students, and our community would support.” She originally stated that cutting course options was something parents, students, and the community would not support. This quote has since been corrected. 

School district 308’s Board of Education discussed theoretical budget reductions for the 2019-2020 school year at a meeting on Dec. 10, 2018. Currently, the board is still working towards a final decision.

Some of the potential actions proposed are listed below:

  • Modify the high school day to reflect a six course limit for freshman
  • Lease athletic activity Vans
  • Discontinue the Early Childhood Tuition Paid Program
  • Modify the junior high ELA from a block period to a single period class for seventh and eighth graders
  • Reassignment of junior high literacy and reading specialists to classroom positions

Out of all these possible solutions to district 308’s increasing budget issues, the modification of the high school day would have the most impact on the staff and students here at Oswego High School. This change would shorten the day from eight periods to six for all incoming freshman, starting next year.

There are positives to this change, as explained by the staff involved in both the English and choir departments.  

“The pros of a six-period day would be that there would be less student movement in the halls, as the students would be held in study halls,” Choir Director Mr. Frank Tieri said.

“From a teacher’s perspective, fewer courses allow students to focus on those fewer courses,” English Department Chair Dr. Amy Howerton said. She went on to explain that “a significant con is that it takes away choice and opportunity.”

These cuts would not allow students to choose as many elective classes, resulting in an overall lack of involvement.  

“From a teacher’s perspective, fewer courses allow students to focus on those fewer courses…a significant con is that it takes away choice and opportunity.”

– Dr. Amy Howerton

This would eliminate the demand for elective classes, as students do not have as many periods in the school day. Some possible effects of this could be less electives programs available and elective teacher layoffs.

Mr. Tieri understands these possibilities and stated, “if the freshman are not joining things, every year that they are not just closes those things down.”

This action could be met with controversy and backlash, as many students at OHS take part in and enjoy elective classes such as art, choir, and woodshop.

“People are looking forward to their electives and that’s what gives them something interesting to do in their day,” sophomore Josie Diaz, a member of a capella choir, said.

Dr. Howerton shared the potential struggles her son might face his freshman year, as he enjoys art.

“He may not be able to fit art into his schedule, and that’s bothersome to me as a parent,” Howerton said.

“There are a lot of motivated students that will be coming in from the two junior highs, I would think that for them it would be a major issue. Because now they would have to carve out time in their schedules outside of school to take classes that they would normally be taking in school,” Mr. Tieri said.  

“Elective classes have allowed me to make a lot of friends and also taught me a lot of skills that I can use outside of school.”

– Josie Diaz

Dr. Howerton also approached the issue from a financial perspective.

“It takes away a students opportunity to learn different kinds of content, to practice and be exposed to different kinds of things in a lower stakes, less expensive environment,” Dr. Howerton said.

She recognized that high school is one of the last chances for a student to experiment with different types of classes, without having to worry about the extensive costs associated with college.

For the students of OHS, elective classes are an opportunity to make new friends and study something that interests the individual.

“Elective classes have allowed me to make a lot of friends and also taught me a lot of skills that I can use outside of school,” Diaz said.

Dr. Howerton predicts opposition from both parents and students if this change was to be made. “Cutting course options for students is something that parents, students, and our community would not support,” Dr. Howerton said.

The budget issue has been plaguing the district for a while now. Just last year, the district voted to increase class size, reduce classroom support, and altered the gifted education program.

Mr. Tieri wants students to know that the current school board is “not the reason that these cuts have to be made, that there were mistakes made for a while before this particular board. this board has to come to grips with it, so until the state of Illinois gets their act together and actually starts paying the schools what the schools are due, we are going to be stuck in this boat.”

Mr. Tieri and Dr. Howerton both urge students and parents to get involved by writing their senators and representatives.

For more information about the budget cuts to be made in the future, visit the “Board of Education” section of the District website.

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