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Parents, students plead to keep schedule
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Students, parents and others expressed concerns and disapproval Thursday night of the Effingham County Board of Education’s consideration to move high schools to a traditional seven-period day schedule.

No decisions have been made, but the BoE is re-evaluating the class scheduling model at the high schools as it anticipates a $5 million revenue gap for fiscal year 2013.

The stakeholders and public weighed in on the matter at a public forum in the BoE auditorium after Superintendent Randy Shearouse presented the pros, cons and budget holes that led the board to consider moving to a seven period day.

While some disagreed with her, Marsha Boyd told the superintendent that rather than eliminating teachers, she’d be in favor of raising the millage rate to make up for the $5 million hole, instead of making the school system continue to absorb financial blows.

“We’re still going to have money that we’ll have to raise,” Boyd said. “If you’re going to raise the millage rate, I prefer that you raise the millage rate on the $5 million (revenue deficit), keep the teachers, keep the block system and let the whole county pay for the deficit.

“We have enough people in the county who don’t have jobs, and then you’re talking about eliminating other people who will possibly not have jobs. My vote is to just raise the millage rate and let us all pay for it.”

The move is expected to relieve the system of no more than 10 teaching positions at the high school, one of its most controversial, yet financially beneficial, intended effects.

Jay Neurath, Effingham County High School Council chairperson, told the board that the council was overwhelmingly against leaving the block schedule because, among other reasons, students would lose opportunities to recover credits and because the graduation rate for the system has climbed to 85 percent — a 15 percent gain since moving to the block schedule.

“There’s been a lot of opportunities for students who have issues to have time to recover and be able to graduate,” he said.

Students expressed concerns for their teachers’ jobs and praised the block schedule for allowing for more electives and for time to retake failed courses before graduation.

“I’m a straight A student,” said Haley Hillhouse, a junior at Effingham County High School, “and I know it’s kind of an exaggeration and I feel like you guys probably will not believe me, but I credit a lot of that to really good teachers. I honestly have some great teachers.”

She said that while she understands that it’s a budget problem, the schedule works well for her and other students.

“I know it’s a budget thing, but why fix it if it’s not broken?” Hillhouse said. “I mean, I think I’m doing really well and I think a lot of people are doing really well.”