As a new strategy to cut costs, Schenectady schools Superintendent Laurence Spring is considering ways for electives to count as core classes.
A theater class could replace English. Dance class could replace physical education.
The district would then have to run fewer sections of the core classes. It would mean teacher layoffs, but it might not hurt students as much as other options, Spring said.
“We want to offer things kids are passionate about, but we know we have to create efficiencies,” he said.
But he isn’t eager to cut staff.
He said that in some cases, a teacher might cover both theater and English.
In other cases, he said, “We have some dilemmas.”
School board member John Foley warned that teachers might need other certifications for their classes to count for core requirements.
The idea has not been fully fleshed out yet. Spring floated it at Wednesday’s school board meeting.
He said it’s an example of what he must do to keep Schenectady’s costs within budget next year. Right now, he has to find $10 million somewhere, which could mean a cut of about $1,000 for each of the district’s roughly 10,000 students.
“That’s a pretty significant amount we’re going to be taking away from kids,” he said.
The Core Curriculum for high school students specifies what they should learn in each subject, but doesn’t say what the class must be called. In the English Language Arts section, for example, students must learn specific skills related to reading, listening, speaking and writing.
The curriculum includes demonstrating “physical poise” and using delivery techniques, visual aids and props. Those skills clearly lend themselves to acting.
Schenectady’s theater classes also go through plays line by line, analyzing characters’ unwritten motives and desires, as well as what the author intended and how a modern audience might understand the message better. Those skills fit with the Core Curriculum’s requirements in reading skills.
But theater classes might also have to meet detailed writing requirements, unless students took other classes for that portion of the curriculum.
School board members said dance class should be a natural replacement for physical education class, and Spring said he was also looking into substitutions through athletic team practices and other physical endeavors.