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Chart showing the teacher positions and classes that have been cut in the last four years.

With senior year comes newfound freedom, fun traditions, and the everpresent excitement of graduation. In addition to these exciting aspects of being in 12th grade, there is one thing that most students at Burlington High School (BHS) tend to like the most about their senior year: the lack of academic responsibility. While not having to worry too much about the pressures of academic life has been a large gift of my senior year, I can not help but wonder: will I be prepared for the academic rigor of college? Currently, I am taking six classes. This allows me to find time in my schedule for assignments that I need to complete, to get help from teachers, and to have more free time to use for studying. Mostly, though,  I sleep in until 10:00 a.m. My current course load of six classes is heavy compared to that of most of my peers. I know students with one class on white days, and three classes on blue days, four total. I know students with only three classes. And no seniors have an advisory. I do not know many students using our free blocks productively. And mid-year, graduation requirements started being waived so that created even more free time.  Droves of my friends and peers started “opting out” of the full-year Senior Seminar course. It seemed that they got what they wanted from the class: help with the college application process, and then left.  I asked many how they were getting out of this graduation requirement and all of them said that they were simply asking guidance. I was shocked. This trend of “opting out” continued into the Spring when I got word that, as of 2018, Senior Seminar was becoming an optional elective for the incoming seniors. All juniors were sent an email on March, 20th from Ms. Racicot, BHS principal, stating that “Senior Seminar is no longer a graduation requirement.  It has been removed from schedules. If you would like to take this class you may add it to your schedule if not,  you may also select a different elective. Please meet with your school counselor to, 1) Re-enroll in Senior Seminar or  2) Enroll in an alternative elective course.” This made it challenging for students to enroll in Senior Seminar even if they wanted to because they had to re-enroll after the enrollment deadline. This situation raises multiple concerns for me. Is this why the business department has been cut from three teachers to one?  What will happen to the coding courses that students elect? Where will all students learn financial literacy and get assistance with fifth-year plans?  As I said, seniors do not have advisory so we will be totally on our own now. And, once again in my time here, the administration has reduced course offerings and therefore reduced student capacity to fill our schedules. As of now, the new plan is to swap one of the previously cut business positions to the history department  — but for this teacher not to teach history. They would teach a yet to be developed elective PLP course and a yet to be developed proficiency remediation courses.  This plan makes little sense to me for a couple of reasons. I wonder why three positions were cut in the first place. I believe BHS was asked to sacrifice only two. I may be wrong. I know the history department has lost at least one position in four years here, but if they get that position back, shouldn’t it be to offer history electives?  We are short on these as well. Abandoning Senior Seminar is a mistake.  It assumes we know exactly what we need and do not need to prepare to leave BHS.  And that assumption is ridiculous. I hate to say it, but we actually do rely on adults to make us learn things we think we do not want to learn.  Even if the school chooses to offer a Senior Seminar, like a PLP elective through the history department, I believe that many juniors will not choose to take it. If I was a junior now, I would never sign up for Senior Seminar; however, as someone who has been in Senior Seminar for a whole year, I now know how valuable the class is. I just wish administration did too.  And I worry about my peers whose families have never been through the college application process or who do not understand finances themselves. This is the population that will be harmed the most, the first-generation college student population. Or maybe this will be the population that will be funneled into that mysterious PLP course. Regardless, the cutting of the Senior Seminar credit seems like a serious equity issue.  This loss makes me think seriously about how our school views Senior year. Why are so many classes being pulled from the senior schedule, and when did doing the bare minimum become acceptable? Preferable even?  BHS seems to be so fixated on pushing people through the system and expediting the Senior year process that they are forgetting that the point of going to school is having students learn.  Why have students become an afterthought? I order to save money school has become optional. If the Vermont education system and the district continues this plan of action, BHS students will not become successful and motivated adults in the “real world”.

 

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