HYDE PARK — Ray Elementary School is hustling to draft a budget as it prepares to accommodate a new 7th grade class without the funding to support it.
“We were promised some things and some of those things were funding,” Principal Antonia Hill said at a Local School Council meeting Wednesday.
Hill, who started at Ray, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., in April has faced an uphill battle after Chicago Public Schools announced in early May it would shift students to the school after it closed Canter Middle School, only to later back off on its plans later in the month.
“We were told we would not be a welcoming school, so we will not be getting that funding, but we will be taking those students anyway,” Hill said.
An undetermined number of students from Shoesmith Elementary will transfer to Ray to fill out the 7th grade class and Hill is trying to budget for next year not knowing how many teachers she needs.
To make ends meet, Hill has raided the school’s supply closets.
“We found a lot of math stuff in the building purchased at some time, we don’t know when — and it wasn’t in classrooms, it was in closets,” Hill said of cutting funding for math to pay for an expected four new 7th grade teachers.
She is planning to cut some classes to get the teachers for the new grade.
“We cut music, but we kept art,” Hill said of the part-time music position.
Parents are struggling with the cuts to programs as many worry the school’s reputation for foreign language instruction is already slipping away.
“My kids have been taking Spanish for years and they don’t speak a word of Spanish,” said Lisa Samra, president of the Parent Teacher Association. “It’s not the teachers’ fault. It’s about exposure.”
Students at Ray now only get foreign language instruction twice a week after past budget cuts reduced the foreign language staff from four to two instructors.
“The future vision in this country is Spanish,” said Fernando Martin, a Spanish teacher at Ray. “The way the world is going, if you’re going to a job and you speak English but not Spanish, Chinese or German, you’re out.”
The local school council is scheduled to vote on the budget at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.