Student interest drives schedule

Hadyn Nuttall, Sports/Entertainment Editor

   AP European History, AP Music Theory, Theater Studio, AP Human Geography. These are some classes available to students in previous years that are no longer being run due to low interest and other staffing needs. Never fear, however, many of the courses previously offered can come back with enough student interest.

   The decision to run a class or not depends on several factors. There needs to be enough staff to fit within the budget, and enough student interest to fill the class depending on the master schedule. 

   Tom Buenik is the department chair for school counseling, but for many years it was also his job to create the master schedule. In recent years it has become part of the Assistant Principal’s responsibilities, however, due to the administration change over the summer the job fell once again to Buenik. 

   Buenik said,  “We try to offer all the courses that are approved by the school board and every year we do it based on student interest.”

   Issues arise when there are not enough students who want to take the class or there are not enough staff members because of other class needs. 

   Social Studies/World Language Department Chair Christopher Lagioia explained that once the department chairs receive the report of student interest in classes (the number of students who signed up for each class), they assign teachers which classes they will teach in the upcoming year. 

   “I need to make sure I don’t assign them [teachers] too many classes,” said Lagioia. This sometimes means that although several students may have signed up for one class, if all of the teachers have full schedules, that class will be unable to run.

   These decisions are made based on staffing needs, budget limitations, and the number of students interested.  If it comes down to running a class that 15 students signed up for or running a class that 30 students signed up for, the decision is most often made in favor of the class with more interest. 

   Buenik said decisions to cut classes are not made lightly, “They are thoughtful decisions on how to best serve the majority of our students.”

   “It always starts with the budget  and obviously our staff is the biggest part of the school budget,” said Buenik. 

   According to Andy Searle, Chief School Business Official, about half of the budget goes to salaries and benefits for staff. 

   “Every year, just after Winter Break, the administration looks at student class choices and enrollment in those classes to determine staffing needs.  The budget may or may not increase due to factors such as the number of teachers and aides who retire or leave the district for one reason or another, and the cost of those who replace them, as well as any additional staffing needs,” said Searle. 

   Staff and budget availability also impacts class sizes. Since departments have limited full-time staff members and teachers can only teach a certain number of classes, popular or required classes are often run at full capacity to maximize the number of classes staff members teach. 

   Once department staffing needs are determined it ultimately boils down to student interest. The school will staff classes that students want to take. If students want to bring back these classes they need to talk to their friends and get enough students interested to have the numbers to run the class again. 

   Student interest determines what classes run every year, but how often are students surveyed on what they’re interested in having available to them? 

   Buenik said, “I don’t think we ask students enough what they want.”