As Anna Hume, a senior at Ashland High School, observed the freshman orientation on campus this morning, she wondered whether the young students — in the aftermath of last spring's budget cuts — would have the same opportunities she had.
"I'm kind of glad to be heading out when we are," she said.
When school starts on Wednesday, students will face larger classes and fewer teachers.
About 50 class sections — or 90-minute periods — were cut at the high school this year as the district grappled with declining state funds for education due to the recession.
Although Hume, a member of the high school's leadership program, said she was looking forward to the new school year, other students are worried by the cuts, she said.
"I feel like this year will be fine, but at the same time, it's noticeable to go from a 20-person class to a 40-person class," she said. "I've heard a lot more kids complaining about their schedules this year than before."
The larger classes will make teachers' jobs harder too: They'll have more work to grade and less time to pay individual attention to students, said Holly Johnson, a French and choir teacher at the high school.
"In foreign language classes, it's definitely going to be harder for them," she said this morning.
Johnson has 36 students in her French I class, when "the optimal class size is maybe 15," she said.
Like many of the teachers who saw their colleagues get "picked off" last spring during the budget cuts, Paul Huard said he's just glad to have a job.
Huard, who teaches social studies and English at the high school, had his hours reduced from full-time to two-thirds-time during the cuts. He's taken a second job, grading essays for the College Entrance Examination Board.
But the larger class sizes mean Huard will be working about as hard as he was last year, he said.
"I maybe even have more of a workload and even less time to do it," he said.
Teachers are facing a 5.1 percent pay cut this school year. In fact, all district employees that weren't laid off are taking pay cuts this fall.
The district's $22 million budget for the next school year is 14.8 percent lower than the previous year's.
Although the high school is still left with many amenities, dedicated teachers and interesting classes, Huard said the changes will be noticed.
"I think by Ashland's standards, this is atrocious," he said.
Still, Johnson said it appears students and teachers will make due with the resources they have and continue to focus on learning.
"There's no reason for it, but I have a lot of optimism about this year," she said. "I think we have to be positive."
Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.