Proposed cuts may force summer school classes to face elimination in summer 2010

News

By Patrick Bryant
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Even before the 2009-2010 school year started, freshman Victoria “Tori” Potts had already taken a class at Carmel High School. For Potts, finishing a session of summer school gym helped add room to her schedule for the year.

“I took summer gym, so that I didn’t have to take it during the regular school year,” she said.

Like Potts, many students use summer school to get ahead in their courses. But this could all change if budget cuts, proposed earlier this semester by Superintendent Barbara Underwood, are approved by the school board.

According to Principal John Williams, the cuts, amounting to $3 million, could be approved by the school board as early as January.

P.E. PYRAMID: A physical education class practices gymnastics techniques. Although summer school classes could get cut because of the budget cuts, summer gym may be the only one left untouched because of the high number of students who enroll. SHIRLEY CHEN / PHOTO
P.E. PYRAMID: A physical education class practices gymnastics techniques. Although summer school classes could get cut because of the budget cuts, summer gym may be the only one left untouched because of the high number of students who enroll. SHIRLEY CHEN / PHOTO

“Summer school is very important to our kids, but when you make budget cuts, nobody benefits,” Williams said.

Another move to cut expenses is a referendum, which, if approved by voters, would result in a tax hike for all Carmel residents. Williams said under state law, school districts aren’t allowed to “operate in the red,” or with a deficit, so it can be hard to have a balanced budget without sacrifices.

“When you cut budgets, there are tough choices that have to be made, and you hope that the people that make these decisions take into consideration the effect the cuts will have on kids,” Williams said.

Potts said she thinks a cut in summer school will be a negative change for her next year.

“(The change) will force me to take P.E. my sophomore year instead of another elective,” Potts said.

According to economics teacher Dan Bates, a 31-year veteran here, students looking to take AP classes during the summer to save time and money in college will also be affected if the change occurs. “When you cut programs, it hurts people,” Bates said.

Bates said he understands the cost of summer school, but said he believes not having summer courses will hurt not only students, but teachers as well.

Bates said the school would need to add classes during the year to accommodate students who would have taken summer classes and that, he said, would be “brutal,” especially on younger teachers who typically are assigned these extra  teaching classes.

Bates said this might be problematic because of the increase in class size, especially ones that he teaches like AP Macroeconomics.

“It’s a ‘ripple effect,’” Bates said. “You can pack only so many kids in a classroom.”

Bates said during summer school, he teaches about 70 students, a total he said would amount to about three classes during the year. 

DANCE CLASS: Students in their physical education class perform a dance. Many students prefer to take summer school physical education, which the budget cuts could affect, to make room in their schedule. SHIRLEY CHEN / PHOTO
DANCE CLASS: Students in their physical education class perform a dance. Many students prefer to take summer school physical education, which the budget cuts could affect, to make room in their schedule. SHIRLEY CHEN / PHOTO

Also, according to Bates, getting rid of summer school would be harmful to motivated students who are trying to get ahead for college.

“Being able to drop a class in college that you’ve already taken in high school could save $800 to $2,000,” Bates said.

Potts said she also thinks that the changes will affect her education. She said adding summer school students to the mix during the regular school year would have a positive effect on the situation, especially considering expected teacher layoffs.

Bates said he realizes cuts are being made across the board, but he said it is tough considering the hours that teachers spend preparing instruction for summer school.

“Personally, it’s demoralizing to work on lesson plans for summer school and work on the AP curriculum,” Bates said, ”and now see that it can be taken away.”

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