Millersburg families urge school board not to cut classes, music, sports

MILLERSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Tough times call for tough decisions. That’s the message from a Dauphin County school district looking at making cuts.

The Millersburg School Board listened to the community at what they call a study session Monday night, and they heard concern.

Dozens of students, parents, and teachers showed up to voice their opinions. They urged the administration and school board to find another solution.

It’s a decision no administration wants to make, but the Millersburg Area School District told the crowd it doesn’t have a choice.

District leaders spent the first 45 minutes laying out numbers that illustrate the problem. Here’s the gist: enrollment has declined, they’re bringing in less revenue, and have more expenses.

They say they have to cut.

“Our children deserve much more than that below-basic or minimum plan that was just presented to us,” a mother of a future Millersburg student told the board after the presentation.

A parade of audience members took to the microphone to urge the group not to cut.

“We need to do better,” said Kenneth Campbell, the high school band director. “We need to do better for these kids because, if you think about our community, everything revolves around this place.”

Many focused on proposed cuts to extracurriculars, like music and sports.

For instance, the district is proposing eliminating middle school basketball, which not a lot of students play, as well as some others.

“If you’re going to take sports away, nobody will want to stay at this school,” said Lacey Straight, a student and athlete at the high school. “Sports and extra activities keep people here and make people want to come to this school.”

Superintendent Thomas Haupt says on the elementary level, music classes would be reduced from an hour to 45 minutes (art and library periods would be lengthened), and one teacher would be assigned to the school.

The middle and high school would get one teacher each for music, and students would not be pulled from other classes for band or chorus.

But the cuts go deeper.

One idea calls for eliminating some course offerings — including welding, family consumer science, child development, and culinary arts from the high school — and charging families for select electives through Capital Area Online Learning Association (CAOLA), potentially up to $100 for a full-credit class.

Some teachers would also be furloughed under the proposal, which would mean bigger class sizes.

Some in the administration would also be let go. Haupt said the district as a whole would see reductions.

One man in the audience told the board he just found out at the meeting that his wife’s job is potentially on the line.

“These are families that you’re affecting,” he said, “not just cutting money and saving money, it’s families.”

Ultimately, the board will have to make the call. Haupt called it a “daunting task.”

Monday was not a voting session, so the board did not make any decisions. Next Monday, though, is a voting meeting.

District families expect to hear more from the board about the decision then.

The above article has been edited to clarify that Superintendent Thomas Haupt elaborated on details of the cuts themselves, not on speakers’ perceptions of the cuts; there is also an added clarification about the proposal to ask families to pay for CAOLA electives. 

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