Final deadline for Sentinel?
Budget cuts at Aspen High School are threatening several of the school’s departments and the future of the school newspaper.The Skier Sentinel publishes four times a year in The Aspen Times and currently has a staff of about 12 students.The school district ordered Aspen High officials to cut $200,000 from the budget for the 2005-06 school year. Principal Kendall Evans said that will be the equivalent of cutting two and a half positions from the teaching staff.”Any time we cut positions, it affects our programs and things we don’t want to lose, but we have to,” he said. “In journalism we have our yearbook and newspaper, and we’re trying to figure out if we can continue to have both of those.”
The district is in the second year of a three-year plan to eliminate a nearly $1 million deficit. An additional $140,000 in cuts will be needed in the 2006-07 school year.Other departments that will see a staff reduction include foreign language, science and the reading program, Evans said. No teachers are being fired – those who are retiring or leaving the district for other reasons are not being replaced.Their classes will be absorbed by existing teachers, Evans said, meaning a heavier workload for staff. Nancy Haddad, who helps with the school’s yearbook staff, is retiring after this year, and right now the school plans to replace her full-time position with someone working part time.”That’s what puts us into a bind,” said Dave Conarroe, the adviser for the Skier Sentinel. “When cuts are made, it’s going to have consequences. It’s not like they can just make everyone pick it up, because it’s not as easy as that.”Conarroe and Haddad handle 12 classes per day, including newspaper and yearbook, and when Haddad leaves, there will be three classes without a teacher.
“It’s possible we can still do yearbook and newspaper [classes] in this department, but clearly there are some issues we have to take care of about what’s going to be taught,” Conarroe said.He said the reason a journalism curriculum exists is partially because he’s an advocate for school newspapers.”About eight years ago I told Kendall that I’d be willing to do it – prior to that it had been since the ’70s since there was a school paper,” he said. “I think journalism is important, and the kids need a voice.”Junior Fred Bernard, 17, is assistant editor of the Skier Sentinel. He said he plans to work in journalism, and while he would miss the newspaper class if it was discontinued, there are other classes where he’d get writing practice.
“I think it’s as important as any other program we have, like school government, student senate and almost all the other clubs,” he said. “If you kill it off the school would go back to normal, but having a school newspaper is a tradition – it’s a part of school everywhere. You’d lose an educational, fun class if it got cut off.”Evans said he feels the same way about the school newspaper. The final decision on what is affected by budget cuts hasn’t been made yet.”No hard and fast decision will be made until we’re building the schedule for next year and know how many sections we’ll have, and how many kids in each section,” he said. “My position is that I want [them] to have the opportunity to express their opinions and tell the story of what goes on at school. Sometimes people criticize me by letting the kids write but they want, but it’s a two-sided street. When they’re criticized, it’s a great learning experience for them.”The high school is sending out course descriptions to parents, and Aspen Middle School eighth-graders must determine what classes they’ll take in ninth grade. For now, students are able to sign up for the newspaper class so that the school can gauge student interest.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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On this episode of The Drop-In, see for yourself how an extra light dusting of snow makes all the difference on Aspen Mountain.