‘Au revoir’ to programs

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 20, 2001

As part of the budget cuts approved for next year, Albert Lea High School is set to lose 3.

Thursday, December 20, 2001

As part of the budget cuts approved for next year, Albert Lea High School is set to lose 3.83 teaching positions, saving the district $191,700.

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Among other cuts to classes, activities and graduation requirements, the French language program will be eliminated, with that one stroke of the axe affecting one teacher, Mindy Christian, and 92 students.

&uot;This is the first time we’ve had to cut programs since I’ve been here; we always cut staff before but kept programs,&uot; said Al Root, Albert Lea High School principal. Every year the budget would get cut for the next year, and then before this latest round of reductions, the administration would figure out how to keep programs and cut staff. This time that wasn’t possible, Root said.

This year, an average one for the French program at Albert Lea High School, 92 students are enrolled in four levels of classes. With Christian in charge of the program, 40 students started with beginning French this year, 30 are in their second year of study, 10 are in their third and 12 are in the fourth, and most advanced class.

Many students in the French program also participated in the International Student Exchange Club, along with students in the Spanish language program. The club is also slated to be discontinued after this year.

The elimination of the French program also means the end of the every-other-year trip to a French-speaking country. Last summer students in the program traveled to France.

Beyond the loss of the French program, there will also be more cuts in the number and kind of electives offered to students. Business and visual art classes will be cut, and the school’s yearbook will be converted from a class to an extracurricular activity. The depth of the cuts may possibly affect the number of core classes. Making reductions across whole departments will probably mean reducing the number of all classes offered, Root said.

&uot;In terms of knowing exactly how things will look next year, I haven’t gotten there yet. If I had to guess, even social studies, language arts and science will see fewer sections,&uot; Root said.

Two requirements will also be dropped for students next year. The first is a computer technology class that was required for all ninth graders. It will become an elective in the 2002-2003 school year, with the total number of sections reduced. The computer class requirement was a local one, created by the district, which was responding to a perceived need for more computer and technology experience among students attending and graduating from Albert Lea Schools, Root said.

The second adjustment to graduation requirements involves phy ed. Currently ALHS students need to participate in two years of physical education classes. With the change, future students will only need to take a phy ed class for one year.

The lack of learning about fitness is an especially frustrating change for the principal. &uot;If they don’t learn a lot of that at school, where are they going to get it?&uot; he asked. &uot;I’ve always believed in a the credo, a sound mind in a sound body.&uot;

Changes to staff – the layoffs themselves – will be difficult to anticipate, as the administration has to look at each teacher’s license and their level of seniority in the district. A cut in teaching staff at the high school may actually mean that a phy ed teacher in another building ends up being laid off. There may be quite a bit of movement between buildings before the work is done, Root said.

One program cut is actually listed as a cut of an extracurricular activity. The driver’s education program – and the motorcycle education program as well – will both be eliminated. Coordinated by Ron Frandle, a teacher at Lakeview, the program involved many young drivers in the school district. With the elimination of the driver’s ed programs, families will need to contact private driving schools for similar training.

Ironically, according the numbers provided by the district, enrollment projections for the High School show a larger number of students showing up for classes next year. The class of seniors graduating this coming spring has 285 members, but the incoming class of ninth graders is estimated at 335 members. More students coming into a school with fewer teachers and classes means an average classroom will have 30 ore more students in it.

It may also mean more study halls, something Principal Root and teachers would prefer not to see.

&uot;The last thing we want to happen is for students to sit in large study halls,&uot; said Root.