Reasons for Considering Reorganization--Curriculum
February 28, 2012
The PORTA Administration and School Board has explained in earlier articles we are actively seeking opportunities for reorganization with other local school districts in order to maintain and grow the current curricular offerings for our students. We feel that the PORTA District prepares students very well for life after high school. A very important part of the preparation is the curriculum we offer. This article will focus on the current offerings at PORTA and why enrollment affects those offerings.
The affects of reduced enrollment have already occurred in a reduction in staffing, primarily in the elementary levels and in the closing of the Tallula School. In 1998 the enrollment in the PORTA District topped 1446 students, as of September 1, 2011 the PORTA enrollment had dropped to 1099 students. The average decline of nearly 27 students per year since 1998 has affected staffing at the lower levels in the district. For instance, since 2007-08 school year the district has reduced the teaching staff from 85 to 75 certified teachers. In reality reducing staff at the elementary levels is a simple mathematical formula, less children, less teachers. Unfortunately at the High School Level the formula for reductions is much more complicated.
In 2004 the High School enrollment topped 449 students, today we have 364 students and projections show a slight decrease of 10 students over the next 4 years, placing the district at 354 in the fall of 2015. The programming needed to educate 449 students is very similar to the need for 354 students, unfortunately the revenue lose with a 100 less High School students will not support current programming. As noted earlier, making cuts at the High School level is not as simple as the elementary. Sustaining a quality education at the Elementary requires a classroom and an exceptional teacher, whose responsibility is to teach all subjects to his/her class. At the High School level teaching becomes much more specialized and educators are required to be certified in specific fields and as such teach those areas only. Additionally, the State of Illinois sets minimum graduation requirements the district must meet. To meet those requirements the District must ensure that our 2012 graduates earn 4 years of English, ½ year of Speech, 3 years of Math, 2 years of Science, 2 years of History, Driver’s Education, ½ year of health, 1 year of Resource Management, 1 year of (Music, Art, foreign Language or Vocational Education) and Physical Education each semester during High School. As the district considers potential reductions in Curricular offerings, and keeping in mind minimum requirements, it must consider courses that are offered and impact the fewest overall students. Unfortunately, those courses tend to be upper level Math, Science, Language Arts, Fine Arts and Industrial/Agriculture Courses.
Currently, the PORTA District offers 158 different courses, of which 37 courses are considered advanced and are not necessary for graduation. Examples of course titles that could be reduced include Horticulture and Management II, Advanced Plant Science, Drawing and Painting II, Advanced Art, Informational Processing II, Web Design II, Accounting II and III, Broadcasting II and III, British Literature II, AP English and Composition, Foods and Nutrition II and III, Spanish II-IV, Computer Drafting II and III, Welding II, Senior Auto Mechanics, Algebra II, Calculus, Music Fundamentals II, AP Biology and Physics, Advanced Animal Sciences and Political Science.
Reducing the previously noted courses would have a dramatic affect on our students’ ability to compete after High School. But this reduction would also allow the district to reduce staff and District expenditures. By searching for districts interested in reorganizing with PORTA the Board of Education is attempting to forgo any cuts in very important programs. Reduction of Course offerings is not a goal to strive for and the hope is we can create a relationship with the A-C Central District and reorganize so that we can continue to offer all our courses and more.
Along with Curricular offerings being reduced as a result of a steady decline in enrollment, Extra-Curricular offerings will undoubtedly be affected as well. Many of our current programs were bolstered by the addition of the recent sports Coop with A-C Central District, but as enrollment declines so do revenues and prior to making any major academic reductions the district should consider those activities that need to be reduced. By reducing extra-curricular activities the district will save in personnel, transportation and program costs. An important part of the District’s PE department and local community is the use of the PORTA pool. Of course, in times like these extra programs such as the pool are looked at seriously as to the value of the facility. In reaction to the current conditions in our district the Board will undoubtedly consider closing the pool or increasing fees to make the pool self-sustainable.
In closing, many difficult decisions are close at hand for the PORTA Board of Education. The Board continues to seek input from the public and any questions may be asked of the Board members or the Superintendent. The PORTA Board and administration believe a reorganization with the A-C Central District will benefit all students from both districts. The Board will continue to offer more information in regards to the affects of lower enrollment on courses, finances and programming in our fine district. If you have a question, regardless of your belief in this situation, please forward it to Mr. Brue at email@example.com or call 217-632-3803.
Mark Lounsberry—Board President
Mark Schappaugh—Vice President