School policies change for upcoming school year: for the better or worse?


Like most seniors, I’m excited to be done with high school and move onto bigger and better things. However, I’m also relieved to be a senior. Why? Because I feel that impending changes to our school are going to hurt students. The school board has stressed fiscal responsibility to such an extent that they are forgetting the well being of students.

One change for the upcoming school year is our lunch selection. Next year the district will likely have a different food provider, which could be drastically different.

“We’re planning on going out to bid to see if we’ve got the best price. It just hasn’t been decided whether we’re going to go with the Federal Food Program or whether we’re going to stay with a la carte choices,” said Kay Gallo, school board member.

If the district decides to go with the Federal Food Program, students will have a lot less variety of food and likely less appetizing choices. Although the Federal Food Program is supposed to give students nutritious food from all food groups, it is limited to one meal option based on strict guidelines.

Many students often buy lunch because of the many options. Sometimes we just want junk food—we’re teenagers after all. However, we can also buy healthier sandwiches and salads, which is why Quest’s service has worked well.

“I believe [Quest] was a collaborative effort to make sure the food was nutritionally sound and what the students would pay for,” Gallo said.

However, the majority of the board doesn’t agree with Gallo’s opinion and is more focused on lowering costs.

“With the board changing, it’s been decided that we should make sure that we’re being financially responsible,” Gallo said.

In focusing on cost, the board is forgetting the importance of variety. Is saving money really worth selling food that no one wants to buy?

Furthermore, in an effort to cut costs, the district is planning to hire lower qualified nurses to replace the retiring nurses at Central and South.

“We’re not going to be hiring the higher qualification of a nurse,” Gallo said.

For many, this may not make a difference, but for those who rely on the nurse for medical reasons, ideal care could be compromised.

In addition, the district doesn’t plan on replacing the eight retiring teachers. Although the consequences for this are not fully apparent until next year’s enrollment data is in, this could have drastic consequences.

“We’re not going to be replacing the eight teachers. Which would kind of make you think, well if student population has stayed the same, if not raised a little bit, yes, we might have higher class sizes,” Gallo said.

Larger class sizes have been shown to decrease students learning as teachers have to spend more time controlling the class and less time helping students learn and answering individual students’ questions. I can personally attest to this, as I’ve noticed how much better my smaller classes are. They’re more relaxed, you know your classmates better, and you get more done. I’d hate to see this go away.

Finally, the district is getting rid of permanent substitutes. At Central there are three permanent substitute teachers who run the study halls. Next year they’ll be replaced with part time substitute teachers who can only work 100 days a year.

“They’re going to be replaced with a substitute teacher that we pay an hourly rate to and that we don’t have to pay benefits to,” Gallo said.

According to the February 3rd board briefs legislative bills such as Senate Bill 7 and the Affordable Care Act have caused the board to reassess the cost of these full time positions. Moreover, the decision was brought up and voted for on the same night.

“I don’t like voting on an item that we’re just discussing for the first time,” Gallo said.

Gallo, who voted against this decision, believes that it could disrupt the study hall atmosphere because of a lack of continuity in the study hall personnel.

“I felt that these adults who were in control of the study halls got to know the kids and could possibly ward off situations that might escalate into something not beneficial to the student. And I think people who are employed full time have a little more motivation and work,” Gallo said.

Obviously these changes are not going to wreak havoc on the average student’s life individually; however, the combined effect could begin to take a toll on the school’s learning environment. More importantly, if the board continues on this path of “fiscal responsibility,” our school will lose the features that make it so great.