Hundreds of students attending Perkiomen Valley High School in Collegeville, Pa., staged a walkout on Friday morning to try and save the jobs of three beloved teachers.
The District, which is in Montgomery County, is currently facing a budget shortfall of more than $3.3 million. To close the funding gap, district officials have proposed a number of service cuts at schools throughout the district, including increased class sizes at the high school level, as well as the elimination of three core high school teachers.
During their morning protests, students took to Twitter, posting photos of the gathering using the hashtag #SaveTheTeachers.
— Sean Moriarity (@SeanMor5) May 9, 2014
Students have also launched a petition on Change.org that has garnered more than 1,600 signatures.
Perkiomen Valley School District Community Engagement Manager Jessica Lester said school officials supported the student protest by allowing them to participate in the walkout from 8 a.m. until shortly after 10 a.m. without any threat of detention of punishment.
"We felt it was important for them to be able to express their opinions on this issue. They're certainly showing a lot of passion for it," Lester said. "For any student that attended the walkout and returned to class by 10:15, there were no consequences." According to Lester, principals at the high school say there has not been a walkout of this magnitude at the school since the late 1980's.
Eileen Bernstein said her daughter, a 9th grade student at the high school, participated in the walkout because she's not looking forward to the proposed larger class sizes.
"She's in all college prep courses there. So, with these cuts they're gonna pretty much get rid of the track system and have bigger class sizes with both college prep and non-college prep kids all in one room," she said.
"These teachers have been there for a long time too. They're upset that they'll have to go."
According to recent budget presentation documents, the District is proposing service cuts to avoid hiking real estate taxes above the 2.5 percent state tax cap.
Proposed cuts -- many of which effect students at the high school level -- that are supported by the Board of School Directors include:
- Eliminate two high school cafeteria monitors
- Do not replace a second security officer position that is currently vacant
- Delete a proposal to increase a part-time athletic secretary to a full-time position
- Eliminate six Family and Consumer Science periods at the high school
- Eliminate two instructional paraprofessionals at the high school
- Contract with an independent provider for vision support
- Remove the Drivers’ Education classroom course from the required high school curriculum and offer it through Community Education
- Curtail the purchase of musical instruments
- Reduce a mental health coordinator position from 12-month to 10-month
- Increase class size at the high school level and reduce core high school teachers by three
- End the practice of paying for 10th-graders to take the PSAT
- Curtail one bus service run to Germantown Academy
Other proposed cuts have been put on hold or rejected.
The Board of School Directors will convene on Monday, May 12, for a business meeting, during which there will be discussions about the budget. Members of the public are invited to attend the meeting and comment on the issues discussed.
Bernstein said she'll be attending the meeting.
"A lot of the kids plan on attending the board meeting on Monday night along with all of their parents," she said. "I'll be there to support my daughter because this is something that she really feels strongly about."