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State High Latin Classes May Be Saved; Extracurricular Fees Eyed

on May 03, 2011 9:04 AM

State College Area High School would retain most Latin classes but lose its beginning-level Arabic class under a revised budget proposal introduced Monday.

An earlier proposal, introduced by the district administration last month, would have scrapped State High's Latin program as the school district faces a multi-million-dollar budget gap. The program offers Latin I, II, III and IV classes.

But the plan to cut Latin drew substantial and sustained public outcry in a number of public meetings. Appearing before the school board Monday, State High Principal Craig Butler and Christine Merritt, its curriculum director, said the administration proposal has been revamped to keep Latin I, II and III for the 2011-2012 school year.

Butler said Latin IV, if retained, would enroll just more than a dozen students. Under the new proposal, he said, a total of five sections of Latin would be offered on the I, II and III levels; together, it appears, they would enroll about 100 students.

Members of the school board did not appear to object to the revised proposal. It also would drop the Arabic I class, which Merritt said is expected to to fall below the standard 12-student minimum class size. Arabic II would be retained for those students who've already taken Arabic I and may need two years of a language in order to get into a preferred college.

The language-curriculum discussion was part of a nearly five-hour board work session on the budget cuts. Position by position, program by program, board members reviewed with the administration a wide variety of district operations that are tentatively targeted with cutbacks.

They made no formal decision Monday night; instead, it was a chance for board members to request additional information from the administration and to voice objections to some of the cuts proposed.

Among the highlights of their discussion:

  • With member Gowen Roper dissenting, the board appeared willing to consider seriously some fashion of participant fees for extracurricular activities, including athletics and student clubs. Some members voiced preliminary support for a combination of activity cutbacks and new fees for students and their families. An earlier administration proposal to cut all intramural sports does not appear to have broad support on the board; board President Ann McGlaughlin said she has never favored that idea.
  • The board voiced concern about an administration proposal to begin charging fees for elementary-level summer school. No members present appeared to endorse that idea. (Only member David Hutchinson was absent.) Switching to a fee-based model would save the district some $40,000 a year, according to the administration.
  • The board asked the district administration to develop some alternatives to the proposed complete elimination of in-car driver education. Alternatives could include some type of more heavily fee-centered program, or a student in-car program offered exclusively through the district's Community Education division -- outside the traditional school day.
  • At least three board members said they aren't comfortable with the proposed elimination of a guitar class at State High.

The board is scheduled to vote tentatively on a number of proposed program changes at its May 9 meeting. Those that require additional approval from the state Department of Education will then be sent to Harrisburg for review.

If proposed cuts gain support from the State College school board and in Harrisburg, the local board could approve a number of layoffs as soon as May 23, when it's scheduled to adopt a proposed final budget for 2011-2012.

A budget hearing is scheduled for June 6, with final approval of the district budget anticipated later that month.

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