NEAR WEST SIDE — Whitney Young Magnet High School, Michelle Obama's alma mater, may have to charge students $500 to attend a seventh period because of nearly $1 million in budget cuts the school is facing.
Under the proposal, all students at the high-powered magnet school at 211 S. Laflin would attend six periods, but students wanting to take a seventh would have to pony up $500, according to a letter sent Wednesday to faculty and parents by Whitney Young Principal Joyce Kenner.
“It is my sincere hope that the Board of Education will find a way to increase our instructional budget so that we will not be forced to take these drastic measures,” Kenner wrote. “Conversations with staff/faculty that are in jeopardy of losing their jobs were painful.”
Kenner, who said she was caught off guard by the depth of the cuts, confirmed that the $500 class fee is definitely an option to counter those costs.
"If it's something legal says that we as a school can do, then yes, we're very seriously considering it," she said Thursday morning. "Luckily, we do have families and parents who are able to afford a little extra."
A scholarship program would be set up to offer waivers for students who couldn’t afford the fee. Ultimately, that money would then be used to “buy back” teachers to teach additional classes, the letter states.
In addition to the recommended $500 class fee, Kenner suggested laying off nine faculty members, eliminating the Writing Center and reducing the number of languages taught at the school, among other ideas.
Already, the school has reduced it deficit to $800,000 by eliminating an art position, cutting substitute teachers and a security position, and having department chairs take on additional classes, according to Kenner’s letter.
Kenner said she has just begun to process the response from parents and faculty to the cuts.
"Right now, I have to deal with the emotional impact it has had on our school. I’ m trying to manage that this morning," she said.
In response to the cuts, one Whitney Young alumna has started an online fundraiser.
Jessica Lee, a 2006 graduate, aims to raise $25,000 to be donated before the start of the 2013-14 school year.
"Just take a moment to think about all that WYHS has done for you, the foundation it set for you when you went to college," she wrote in a statement. "Help provide the same education to future students as you were once lucky enough to have received."