Budget cuts have been talking points at Southmoreland school board meetings for years. The district has consistently avoided raising taxes for a majority of the past 8 years, causing the district to have less than $1 million as a fund balance.
As a result, Southmoreland School District in July settled on extreme budget cuts and a tax increase of 3.4 percent to balance the budget.
The cuts have resulted in consequences for every department of education at Southmoreland. This includes cutting AP classes such as AP French and Spanish. One student affected by this adjustment is senior Raine Lookabill.
“I found out when I saw on my schedule that the class was not there,” said Lookabill. “I also learned that other students had a Spanish class eighth period, which was always AP Spanish.”
Usually, Spanish club would be an alternative to still participate in Spanish activities, although there is no possibility of the club beginning until December at the earliest.
“As of now, we don’t have a Spanish club this year so through the school we don’t have access to anything other than the lower Spanish courses,” said Lookabill. “I’m really upset about the cut because over the past couple years we have worked hard and dedicated a lot of time.”
Lookabill and the other students who were to be in AP Spanish are now enrolled in Spanish I.
“The end goal was to continue learning and proceed into AP,” said Lookabill, “It’s no longer even an option.”
According to Mrs. Kim Kelley, the high school math department has also been affected by the cuts.
She explained that when our schools math tutoring program was removed, it gives kids “less options” to have one on one time in a subject that they struggled in. The long time alter this cut has made is yet to be determined, but Mrs. Kelley believes the changes will have a negative affect. Students still having to take the Keystone exams used tutoring as a way to study the things they need to work on; however, teachers now are expected to help those students with much less time.
According to Mrs. Kelley, salaries have not been changed. The school has lost team leaders, which would be considered a “supplemental loss” in ones wages that was a team leader. Southmoreland has lost coaches and custodial staff.
Following the Scotties softball team’s WPIAL championship in May, the district cut one of their coaches who helped them toward their goal of being WPIAL champions.
“The budget cuts are like a trickle down effect,” said Mrs. Kelley, former SEA president and math teacher. “Any time you cut things it affects everyone.”
Additional activities like the band are being significantly affected by these cuts as well.
“The band will struggle because there’s not enough money to send home music; we can’t even afford folders.” said Mrs. Jamie Gore. “There will not enough money to have repairs on instruments, and there’s probably enough for one major repair a year.”
The band specifically has lost about 50 percent of its budget compared to last year, according to Mrs. Gore. This makes things that are typically tradition, such as attending the annual PMEA honors band, extremely difficult.
“The budget cuts mostly affect students who travel to music festivals. It’s going to be very hard to get transportation for them,” said Mrs. Gore.
The budget cuts have also eliminated the school district of personal chromebooks that they are permitted to take to and from school.
“Chromebooks have become a way of learning for the students,” said French teacher Mrs. Carrie Scott. “I had to change a lot of things curriculum wise, and now with the loss of the middle school program and the many electives at the high school, the chances of students taking French when entering the high school are getting smaller and smaller.”
Some teachers are given a limited amount of chromebooks at the request of the teacher that needs them. Mrs. Scott, for instance, requested chromebooks and but received only five.
Most teachers simply have to rely on other teachers to gain access to additional chromebooks.
This cut has brought about discussion of a “Bring Your Own Device” policy. However this, too, has brought concern from educators.
“It’ll create an uneven play field for students; not all students have access to wifi or up to date technology at home.” said Mrs. Scott.
Citizens can voice their concerns at school board meetings, which are held on the third Thursday of every month.
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