The administration is considering offering some single-section courses every other year due to anticipated budget and scheduling setbacks, according to Principal Darryl Williams.
Single-section courses - known as singletons - are classes that are only taught during one period, usually because a small number of students signed up for the course. There are 91 singletons currently offered at Blair, which include elective as well as core curriculum courses, such as Physics.
With the school system facing a potential $500 million increase in its budget deficit, the push to offer singletons on a rotational basis is largely an effort to prepare for inevitable cuts, according to Williams. "This year we are just trying to be proactive," he said.
MCPS Director of Public Information Steve Simon said that the budget is generally developed at the county and state levels, since most funding for the school system comes from the state. The effects of the Fiscal Year 2010 budget on course offerings, however, may vary from school to school - principals have a large part of that decision-making power, Simon said.
Individual requests and suggestions from teachers are considered, but the administration has the final say on the schedule, according to Williams. Social Studies resource teacher George Vlasits said that department heads have been asked to review the single-section courses in their department before making recommendations to the administration, but he confirmed that it is ultimately the administration's decision.
Vlasits believes that offering some courses every other year may diminish student interest and prevent the classes from returning. When the variety of classes is reduced, he said the quality of the school as a whole may decline. English resource teacher Vickie Adamson expressed concern for Silver Chips, Silver Quill and classes that prepare students for school plays as their popularity has declined as more electives have been created. Adamson also echoed Vlasits, expressing concern over the implications of fewer class choices. "If you have any of these competing, you really start to tap into what makes a school great," she said.
Tenth grade English teacher Michelle Edwards said that her single-section journalism class, the only one available for non-Communication Arts Program (CAP) students, may be in jeopardy. Enrollment in Journalism I has decreased as other electives were created in the past few years, but the class is necessary for non-CAP students to join the Silver Chips staff, Adamson said. "We don't want Journalism I to disappear," she said.
Vlasits said he would be willing to temporarily cut the one-semester version of Advanced Placement (AP) Comparative Government, but he does not want any other single-section social studies classes to be offered biennially.
It is unclear how the budget will affect Magnet program courses, which account for 20 of the 91 singletons. The Magnet, which suffered cuts last year, is unlikely to receive many this year, said program coordinator Dennis Heidler. "We anticipate offering most of our electives," he said.
Despite possible scheduling changes, Williams, Vlasits and Adamson stressed the importance of making core academy classes and AP singleton courses available every year. Williams said that he is wary of eliminating any classes required for graduation from the academies. "I'm hoping not to affect the academies," he said.
AP Literature and Composition teacher Judith Smith said that this is the first year the class has just one section in a long time, but it is likely to be offered every year because it can be transferred for college credit. "We have to have an AP offering," she said.
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Rebecca Guterman. Rebecca Guterman loves being on Silver Chips! In what little spare time she has left over, she loves to play the piano, dance really badly, and listen to music. Above all, seeing and talking to friends 24/7 is a must. Even though most of her ... More »