Lack of Space in Electives

By: Ashlei Nunez

The start of the second semester brings schedule changes for most students. The switch is due to the requirement to take electives, which are only half a year. Electives include classes outside of students’ required English, math, and science courses, such as art and fitness classes. However, with the high population of students at Westhill, these electives fill up incredibly quickly and many students are forced to take classes that they are not interested in.

With the legal maximum of students allowed in a class being 30, counselors cannot allow students to make their own schedules with the classes they are genuinely interested in. Instead, they are forced to take filler classes that bore the student or take a study hall, making completing credits more difficult.
Mrs. Konrad, Department Head for Visual and Performing Arts, agreed to speak about the influx of students arriving at Westhill and how the school has had to adapt. According to Mrs. Konrad, the limit of students in art classes increased from twenty-five to thirty, and teachers were offered the opportunity to teach additional classes besides the five they were assigned. Mrs. Konrad mentioned that the Visual Art classes are so full that all classrooms are in use every period, leading to teachers having to share classrooms and rotate through alternate spaces to plan for their lessons.

It is also necessary to mention that one of the reasons why Westhill changed to the A/B block schedule was to give students the opportunity to take eight classes instead of seven, making it easier to fulfill credits. However, the inability to choose from a wide variety of electives leads to students taking courses that will not benefit them. Art classes are also considered filler classes by many, which is why the department is so full, but it also takes away the ability to take these classes from students genuinely interested in art who want to build a portfolio.

This new schedule also came with the late arrival/early dismissal development, allowing students to not have a first or last period. This was an attempt to have fewer students in the building and therefore more classes available. If classes are already at maximum capacity, teachers are taking extra classes, and juniors and seniors have the option to only be in the building for two periods to allow more space for others, then what else could be done?

In conversation with Mrs. Malagasi, a Westhill math teacher, she claimed, “The biggest issue is money.” Westhill simply does not receive enough from downtown. The superintendent keeps asking for more things to cut, but the list has been worn down to school necessities at this point. The reason we don’t have enough teachers is that we cannot afford more salaries; the cheaper option is to ask teachers to accept extra pay for an extra class. With a larger budget, Westhill could hire more teachers and add more electives.

Another reason Mrs. Malagasi gave about why electives fill up so fast is the unexpected influx of students at Westhill. The budget and schedule for a school year are prepared and finished by the end of the previous school year, meaning that this year’s was finished in June. The number of students that would be in Westhill was calculated, but the big influx of students arriving in Stamford was not accounted for, said Mrs. Malagasi. These new students had to be placed in any available space, some not even being given ESL classes because there simply weren’t any. In order to cover these classes, teachers were not available to teach electives that otherwise might have been able to run.

Westhill junior Lilah Scherer was asked about the lack of electives and said “I think I’ve only taken one elective I chose.” This problem is directly affecting students and taking opportunities away from them. Students deserve to explore their interests in high school instead of taking “filler classes”. The lack of electives at our school needs a solution, in whatever way possible.

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