Hamilton County, IL school board votes to reduce industrial arts - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Hamilton County, IL school board votes to reduce industrial arts classes

HAMILTON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) -

The Hamilton County Unit 10 School District Board in Illinois voted Tuesday to reduce classes for the 2015 school year.  

The vote to remove the program despite members of the Hamilton County community offering to donate $35,000 to fund the program, according to HCSB member Dennis Lynch, he taught with Hamilton County schools for 28 years and has since retired. He said those funds were raised in three days.

Hamilton County District Superintendent Jeff Fetcho said one class has been reduced from a full year to a semester and another has been removed completely as result of the decision. 

Fetcho said that’s not the only tough decision that was made this year – Several positions have been eliminated including a title one teacher, physical education teacher, a special education teacher, and a bus driver. The district also reduced several positions to half time including a family and consumer science teacher, music teacher, a cook, and a teacher’s aid.

Fethcho said the state’s budget woes have squeezed the district into a tight budget situation that forced cuts. He went on to say that student participation and interest has varied from year to year.

Fetcho said he is working to prevent any full program closures. Four years ago the district removed the arts programs completely. Fetcho is working on work study program where students get credit working and learning from area businesses. He said that could create great opportunities for area students.

 “How much more can we withstand?,” Fetcho said. “We feel like we’re just about as compact as tight as we can get at this point.”
Several teachers are have absorbed positions or classes, for example a high school Spanish teacher was qualified in P.E. and has picked up a section of gym. 

“Unfortunately the decisions that we’ve have to make have not been in the best interest of our students,” Fetcho said. “But we’ve been forced to make them to keep our doors open.”

Lynch and Tim Mellenbine voted to accept the community donation to fund the program.  School board members Randy Kirsch, Tom Maulding, Larry Launius, Danny Anselment, and Steve Becker voted against the proposal.

“The whole thing is what is best for our kids,” Lynch said. “In these financial times you take what you can get.”

The program costs about $32,000 per year to fund, that includes the salary and benefits of a full time teacher, Lynch said. The current industrial arts teacher, Chad Payne, was moved from full time to part time faculty rifting this summer, a result of the state’s budget impasse. Payne will remain part-time and will no longer teach industrial arts.

“We live in a very small farm, trade oriented community,” Lynch said. “The disappointment here? We lost the classes for our kids.”

Since 2014, Lynch said there has been a nearly 50-percent reduction in the number of vocational and trade class hours in the district. He went on to say the decision is also causing scheduling issues for Senior students that require vocational credits to graduate.

It’s estimated that 150 Hamilton County students will participate in vocational or trade course this year compared to 218 students last year, or 68 students less, Lynch said.

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