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Polk high school students may lose class period in budget cuts | News

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Polk high school students may lose class period in budget cuts

Bartow, Florida -- The Polk County School Board is faced with cutting $16-$18 million from the budget for the 2013-2014 school year. 

The latest budget cut proposal has high school students bearing the brunt of those cuts -- by losing one full class period. Students say that means cutting out electives and classes they need for college.

"For me that extra class time is very important. It will boost my GPA. I'm trying to get into a good college or university," says Jakalyn Miller, an 11th grader at Bartow High School.

"With one less class period we can focus on other academics, but at the same time, cause more complications. Other classes would be longer with more of a work load for us," says Stephanie Ramirez, an 11th grader at Summerland Academy.

Some Bartow High School parents say students need more class time, not less.

Barbara Snead says the district should keep cuts out of the classroom. "I think we need to be looking out for the welfare of our kids. I want my child to graduate on time."

Parent Lori Roney says, "I think kids need all they can get out of school now. It's such a crucial time for them."

The Polk County School Board's budget reduction plan would save the district $6.7 million by cutting a class period from the high school schedule.

Hazel Sellers, chairwoman for the Polk County School Board, says there will be exceptions with the possibility of students taking a seventh period on a need basis. How that will happen is yet to be determined. 

School officials assure parents students would have the minimum number of credits needed to graduate, even if it means there won't be time for electives.

Some parents say it's those electives that sometimes keep students engaged in school and coming back every day.  

"I know it's a huge concern but, in the end, our budget has to balance," says Sellers.

According to the district, $18 million in cuts are needed to pay for $14.5 million in teacher pay raises approved last year. That same plan means 190 fewer teaching positions for next year. Sellers says she doesn't expect teachers to lose their jobs, instead, they will be reassigned to fill vacancies left next year.

"Maintaining a salary allows us to attract top quality employees and teachers. We need to budget our money to attract those teachers," Sellers says.

Sellers says the state's lack of sufficient funding the last several years has forced school districts across the state, including Polk, to trim its budget.

"We are at the point now that cuts impact our students. That scheduling model we are working hard so it will work for all students," says Sellers.

Eliminating the class period for high school students is a proposed plan and many details need to be worked out.

Other budget cut recommendations include increasing the class size for electives at the middle school level to 30 students, saving the district $3.4 million. The district is considering one furlough day for 12-month employees, cutting 12 bus routes and cutting a bus driver's day by 30 minutes.

To view the list of budget recommendations click here.

In the meantime, district officials will invite the community to three information meetings (dates have not been set) during the next month for feedback. The board hopes to a have a detailed plan ready for when it meets on March 19.

Follow 10 News Reporter Isabel Mascarenas on twitter @IzzyMascarenas


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