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AHS trims class sections by about 50

Ashland High School will offer about 50 fewer class sections in the coming school year because budget cuts have wiped out electives and trimmed core courses.

A class section is an approximately 90-minute period. Some courses, such as photography, have been eliminated entirely. Others, including those in core subjects — math, English, social studies and science — have been trimmed, resulting in fewer options for students.

"There wasn't a program — academic or elective, alternative or special ed — that wasn't reduced," said Don Valentini, assistant principal at Ashland High School.

School officials have been tediously adjusting students' schedules this summer. They have been especially careful to ensure that seniors are enrolled in the classes they need to graduate, Valentini said.

"We're going to work as hard as necessary to make sure the seniors get the classes they need to graduate and be successful at the next level if they're applying for college," he said.

The school has eliminated its photography and computer programs, which offered three courses each last year. Music and vocational classes, such as mechanics, have been trimmed.

The fewer course offerings mean that students will likely have a tougher time enrolling in the electives or core classes they want, Valentini said.

"In some cases, they may want, for instance, French Four, and it's taught at the same time as a music class, so they have to make a decision," he said.

"We don't have the flexibility that we've had in the past."

At an Aug. 10 meeting, when the School Board voted to approve the class changes, Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said it will also be more difficult for students to adjust their schedules after registering.

"When people at the high school want to change classes and they're not able to, that'll be the first big test," she said.

As a result of the cuts and teacher layoffs, classes will be more crowded. Average class sizes will increase by 20 percent at the high school, from 25 to 30 students. Some classes may accommodate as few as 20 students or as many as 40, according to district officials.

The district's $22 million budget for the next school year is 14.8 percent lower than the previous year's. In total, 56 positions were cut as the district grappled with declining state funds for education due to the recession.

The cuts are the worst Valentini has seen in his 30-year education career, he said.

"I've never seen anything quite like this in terms of the cuts."

Still, the assistant principal thinks the high school will remain a top-notch school, he said.

"I still believe we have the 'Ashland advantage' and I still believe we will offer everything students need to have an incredible high school experience," he said.

"What I am worried about is trying to deliver the same level of service to parents and students because there's less of us."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.