Students Suffer Consequences

It’s no secret that the economy is in turmoil, and that institutions across the nation are undergoing budget cuts to accommodate this. Certainly, coverage of the general financial outlook for the state’s schools has been abundant (note the theme of this section), and one would be hard-pressed to find an employee for whom the term "budget cuts" does not elicit a ready response. Talk concerning the potential cuts faced by the Ames School District ranges, but one thing is clear: downsizing is imminent, and concern is constant. While matters of employment are no doubt pressing, Ames High English teacher Del Schmidt expressed concern over the repercussions of cuts on remaining teachers and activity in their classrooms. "I’m concerned about teacher cuts, because we’re already understaffed; we’ve taken on larger class sizes and more stress," Scmidt said, saying that the effects of understaffing in the English department are already being seen in an increase in grammar and mechanical errors. "We lost the writing and speech workshops and the one-on-one abilities we had there for things that require more attention. I used to conference with every single student, but I just can’t now," Schmidt said, also describing the impact the larger class sizes have had on the freshman literature course. "With so many kids in the class now, we don’t have enough books for them to be able to take them home, so we’re having to do readings in class," Schmidt said. In addition, Schmidt has taken on an AP Language and Composition course, only to see the addition of six extra students per class, which he said adds 12-24 hours of grading on the class’s major papers, as well as making group work more awkward and generally adding stress. However, he understands the necessity of action although he feels that class size was perhaps overemphasized in the previous teacher cuts, . "There’s no blame to put out there except for the overall economy," Schmidt said. "But if we lose another position, we’ll have to offer less classes for sure." He cited the dramatic arts course as a virtual certainty to be dropped in this event. Stephen Woolery, teacher of the dramatic arts course, said this prospect was saddening, because a school the size of Ames High needs a class like that. "I don’t know about the other departments, but the English department right now is pretty bare-bones and already offers a limited number of electives," Woolery said. A March 4 ACSD budget reduction scenario listed an increase in class sizes in proportion to a reduction of five Full Time Equivalents, a savings of $275,000. The particulars of how this would be distributed in the event it was enforced have yet to be determined, but the deliberation of it all is a small encouragement in a heavy matter. It is an indisputably unfortunate necessity to downsize, and a process incapable of entire appeasement, but consideration and broad perspective in input look to be making it as painless as possible.