The budget cuts enacted earlier this year in Hannibal became real Wednesday when school opened for another year. The changes forced on the district caused complaints when people saw what those cuts meant.
The problem areas included a French class taught via distance learning and the half-day closing of the libraries in the Kenney Middle School and Fairley Elementary School.
The district is ending its French classes after this year. There’s only one class left, but it’s the class that needs to take its French Regents exam this year.
High school Principal Brian Schmitt explained that the French teacher elected to move to another job in the district rather than stay in a job that would be reduced to one-fifth of a full time job. The district tried to find a teacher for that job, but there are fewer French teachers and trying to find one who only wanted a one-fifth full time job “is impossible”.
The district then struck a deal with the APW district to have a teacher there teach Hannibal’s one French class via distance learning. The class was supposed to start at 7:35 a.m. and end by 8:10 a.m. Schmitt said that he found out Wednesday that the class would now run until 8:30 a.m., forcing those students to miss the first 20 minutes of their next class. The class is also interrupted by the high school’s morning announcements.
Student Haley Melfi told the Board of Education, “It’s hard to learn when there’s not a teacher showing you things. I can’t learn that way.”
Schmitt and Superintendent of Schools Mike DiFabio said the school would try to readjust student schedules to work out the classroom overlap. Schmitt said that the work should be done by Friday, but noted that the budget cut half of a guidance counselor position and the counselors are the ones who have to make the adjustments while working on other issues such as the integration of four new students into the school.
The board also heard concerns over the half-day closing of the library at Kenney Middle School.
The new budget eliminated a library position, meaning that the remaining librarian has to split time between the libraries at Kenney and at Fairley Elementary.
Kenney Principal Patrick Keefe explained that the library is closed for three periods unless a teacher brings his entire class to the library. There’s no one left to cover library time, said DiFabio, noting the budget cut of a half-time music teacher, a computer teacher, an English teacher, a half-time health teacher. Staff who might be able to help cover the library are instead forced to cover study halls.
“We’ve lost too much,” said Keefe. “This is what I’ve got.”
“And now these kids are sitting in study halls,” said a library aide, who predicted there would be more behavior problems as a result. “I find that disgusting.”
DiFabio said that, except for the problems related to loss of staff, the school’s opening day went well.