New board plan to impact freshman students, elective courses

Point 8, a proposed plan that would prohibit incoming freshmen from enrolling in two elective courses, was introduced at the November 12th board meeting at Oswego East High School. “What I planned for High school, was that I would have a lot more to do, so I could branch out,” incoming freshmen Meghan Hartigan said. Photo by Namratha Prasad.
 

For years, East has been proud of the variety of electives students get to choose from. The school offers everything from horticulture, to interior design, to medical topics. These electives often times cannot be found at other schools. However, as an effort to curb the debt in the district, incoming freshman may not be able to take a majority of the various courses offered in years past.

The plan

As a result of Point 8, pitched at the board meeting on November 12th, the class of 2023 may have to give up one of the electives they hoped to take. If accepted, the new plan will allow freshmen to take one elective, while leaving the other as a free period to take a mandatory study hall. According to the board, this new plan would reduce the district budget by approximately 278,000 dollars. In the exact words of the board the plan will be a “modification of the high school day to reflect a six course schedule for freshmen. Our 9th grade students will have a flex period that can be used as time to: complete online courses, participate in interventions, freshman advisory, or study hall.”

The backlash

Incoming freshman Mackenzie Gatz must choose between art and Spanish. She said she will most likely take Spanish because she took it for two years prior to high school. Gatz said she is unhappy with the new plan, and would rather not have to choose between two subjects she is passionate about.

“In the past, I’ve been told that I can make my own choices, and my choices make an impact, and they give me benefits. Now this is just shutting me down, and not letting me make those choices that I really want to make,” Gatz said.

Emily York, an eighth grader at Plank, she said she has been excited to come into high school and was enthusiastic because high school was a chance to take more classes. York explained that she was eager to come to East due to the opportunities it presents. However, with the potential addition of point eight, she is worried these opportunities may add extra stress to a limited schedule.

“I was just starting to get used to the new transition and we have future wolves night coming up, and I was getting more excited than nervous, but then they drop this on us, and it adds an extra layer to what we have to worry about,” York said.

Senior Claire Schwarz said that those who do not want to pursue a core curricular based career would be at a disadvantage as a result of the new proposed plan.

“I think that it will make [the freshmen] panic a little because they won’t be able to take all those first year classes until their sophomore year, which gives them less time to progress to where they need to be in order to get into those college classes for that specific subject,” Schwarz said.

Introduction to Fashion Design instructor Angela Scharbert said that the new plan makes incoming freshmen lose out on exploring some potential careers.

“It’s really going to hurt the students because they won’t be able to explore future opportunities,” Scharbert said.

Gatz said she feels that the plan is justified, however she said she is concerned about the amount of work school places on freshman, and the need for a break from all the stress.

“I don’t think it’s fair for incoming freshman who are still getting use to the new school, not being able to do what we want, and take a break for a minute and just go to a class that we can express ourselves in,” Gatz said.  

Junior Tejaswi Nunna said she knows that electives can be very important to people. She explained that people need a break to really thrive during school.

“I have the possibility to go through my interests and hobbies. For some people band and fine arts are their safe haven. It gives them a break, it gives them what to do next, it refreshes them. If they don’t have this, it will just be academics on academics putting them in a mentally strenuous loop,” Nunna said.

In addition to a lack of being able to express themselves and not having a break throughout the day, Band Director Kelly Cooper said that students may have to push back important classes to pursue what they are passionate about.

“Certain classes lead to other classes. The argument is that they can push back a class and still fit in another elective. And that’s true, but maybe the students don’t want to push back a class. Maybe they really want to do four years of a social studies, because that is something they are passionate about,” Cooper said.

Meghan Hartigan, an incoming freshman, said she is concerned about classes that require a prerequisite to enter them. She said she is worried because she wants to take those classes, and not being able to take them puts her behind in her plans for high school.

“For freshman year there are a lot of electives you have to take to get into different electives, so if I don’t take those that year, then I won’t have the ability to get into different things that I may have to do later on in my high school career,” Hartigan said.

Possible alternatives

Point 8 concerns incoming freshmen because they must work around not having another elective Gatz said. She added that she will have a hard time trying to fit her passion, art, into her schedule.

“There are different ways to change around things, but in my opinion, I would probably just do Spanish, and have to try to figure out a way to find out how to do art at some point. But it would be hard,” Gatz said.

Incoming freshman Lucas Fajardo said that the new plan will affect a majority of the class of 2023 because the idea includes a mandatory study hall. Due to the nature of a required study hall, students may have to invest in taking summer school or online classes, which is another concern Fajardo explained.

“I think it’s not only me, I think it’s going to change the plans for a lot of people because a lot of people are depending on a lot of these electives to get them into colleges. And then, if they are limited to only one, then the district is forcing them to take a study hall, I think that’s going to effect a lot of people’s schedules,” Fajardo said. “If there is not enough time in the schedule to take it, then they have to take summer classes, and I don’t think that’s going to be as good for a lot of people.”

York said that online classes are expensive, and some may not be able to pay the fee. In fact, According to the Illinois Report Card, over 20 percent of East students come from low income families, who do not have enough money to pay the $500 fee for online classes.

“[Summer classes] cost a lot of money, and not every student has the same opportunity for their parents to pay and to be in those classes over the summer,” York added.

The board meeting was a forum for community voices to speak about the new plan. One of the residing board members, Matthew Bauman, said that the board has suggested many options to help freshman plan out their new schedules, if the change were to occur.

“I have asked administration to provide some sample four year course schedules for different types of students to see if this change will still allow all core subjects to be taught, and allow those who want to participate in their chosen elective courses are able to do so,” Bauman said.

A mandatory study hall

Siddharth Senthil, an incoming freshman attending Murphy junior high said he is concerned about the mandatory study hall that point eight presents.

“I want to take two electives, band and Spanish, and if I have to get one study hall, it’s going to be harder for me because now I  have to either drop band or Spanish. Spanish I have been spending two years on, and now if I drop it, I’m going to have to restart from the beginning. But if I drop band, I just don’t want to,” Senthil said.

Bauman said that the free period will most likely not be a mandatory study hall, rather a mandatory online class so students may take time out of their schedule to do an online class of their choice.

“Adding a mandatory study hall is not the answer. If there is a mandatory online class option … to be taken during that hour, I could support the recommendation, however, if it remains as an added open hour for the freshman class, I am not in favor of it,” Bauman added.

Concerned parent Melanie Fulkerson said she is worried for her incoming freshman daughter who has to choose between Spanish and her hobby, photography. She said she is uneasy about the fact that her daughter’s learning will be impacted in a negative way as a result of a mandatory study hall.

“I don’t want my kids to go to school just to sit in a study hall. I send them to school to take classes,” Fulkerson said.

A toll on the future

Gatz said that she feels more nervous than anticipated about coming into high school because of the new plan that might affect her.

“I feel like it’s going to be a big workload, rather than being excited for the plethora of electives that are offered here, rather than Junior high. So it makes me more nervous than excited now,” Gatz added.

Cooper said that the new plan will make freshman concerned about their experiences in high school, as well as their future plans.

“There is just so much available, which I think the school and district should be very proud of, and they seem to be proud of, yet I’m afraid that those students will not be able to take the experience they have available to them their freshman year,” Cooper said.

York said that her career depends on taking art as an elective, and with the new plan paired with graduation requirements, taking art classes over the required language classes may prove to be tough.

“I want to have the choice to do what I want to do because art, for me, is my future,” York said.

For Nunna, her experience in the elective of honors biomedical engineering helped her determine her future, as she strives to become a doctor, and go into medicine. However, she also took computer science and she knew that IT was not for her.

“At first, I thought honors biomed would be just another medical class, but it was not. The teacher enlightened us with knowledge, and he educated us in a way that was relevant to us. I ended up loving the course,” Nunna said.

College is a major concern for many freshman, as Hartigan said. She added that electives are a way to discover potential majors and explore what students are passionate about.

“What I planned for High school, was that I would have a lot more to do, so I could branch out and find what I would want to major in in College, but with this new plan, it’s going to be much harder,” Hartigan said.

Schwarz is the President of NAHS and said that art is her future. She plans on majoring in interior architecture, a major deeply rooted in the arts. She said that without art, her life would have been completely different. As a result of the elective, Claire’s life is now centered around art.  

“Art helped me realize what I want to do in the future. If I had never taken art classes, I never would have known I wanted to be an interior architect,” Schwarz said.

The new plan is not only a loss of a class that can result in a change in a student’s future but also a loss in the ability choose, as Senthil said.

“[The new plan] doesn’t really make me feel negative attitude towards [going into high school], but I’d rather have me being able to choose both my electives, not just one,” Senthil said.

The next board meeting to vote and hear members of the community speak on this topic is December 17th in East’s Community Room. 

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