LINCOLN PARK — After a series of emergency meetings, the Lincoln Park High School Local School Council and principal agreed on Thursday night to a series of budget cuts that will result in the loss of a number of teaching positions.
The cutbacks, which were unanimously approved by the school council, will chop approximately $956,000 from the budget.
While parents and staff members had been hoping the community would rally around the high school to prevent those cuts, the extremely short time between learning of the needed cuts — just two weeks ago — and submitting a balanced budget did not allow for it.
The council and Principal Michael Boraz agreed to cut $314,000 in nonsalary items such as copiers, arts and sports equipment, computer equipment and after-school tutoring services. They also approved cutting two English positions, a science teacher, a librarian, a counselor, a physical education teacher and reducing a social studies position to part time.
Boraz said the teaching positions that will be cut will not result in current staff losing their jobs because the teachers in those assignments were already leaving the school.
Some last-minute tweaks to scheduling and the school's budgeting meant Boraz was able to keep workshops for freshmen, which were thought to be instrumental in helping students get started on personal projects for the IB program.
The cuts that will hurt the most include dropping a number of senior year electives in psychology and environmental biology, according to Boraz and other school staff.
The problem is that students have already scheduled their classes, and to make this budget work, 200 of them who signed up for a psychology of environmental biology course are going to have to either voluntarily opt out or the school will exclude them.
Students who are excluded from the classes will be enrolled in a "senior seminar" taught by a counselor at the high school. Each of those classes will have around 40 or 45 students in it, according to Boraz.
"Hopefully, they will come out of those courses," he said. "It will take a little persuasion I suppose."
Ken Duncan, the school's assistant principal who handles scheduling, said that they hope a large number of the 200 students voluntarily opt out. If not enough do, it is likely they will have to work a sort of lottery to decide who can take those classes.
"Obviously, kids who need the class for graduation, they would stay," Boraz said. "You don’t want to force anybody but at the same time if it's not that, it's cutting another $80,000 or $100,000 from the budget."
The school was banking on using about $200,000 in rollover funds from last year's budget, but because CPS does not allow that to be included in the balanced budget for the 2013-2014 school year, Lincoln Park could be forced to cut additional positions.
Those would include an office clerk and some overtime security.
While the cuts were being discussed, some parents on the LSC began discussion of raising the school's student fee up to $300 per child to make up for lost positions.