With the recent addition of an Economics class required for all students in the Class of 2016 or younger, many electives have taken a hit with low enrollment numbers in their classes.
While in the midst of the country’s most recent financial recession, Fairfax County Public Schools decided they needed to educate their students about economics and personal finances and prepare students to prevent another economic crisis in the future.
In the spring of 2010, the school board voted to require students graduating in 2015 and below to take an Economic and Finances class. This, as well as the already existing boundary change, has resulted in lower enrollment levels in all electives at AHS with a student population of only 2,200 from a pre-existing 2,700.
“I think this class [Economics] can definitely help me once I’m out of high school. While I am not looking forward to losing another elective, I don’t mind,” sophomore Jack Curtin said.
While some students show optimism in regards to the Economics requirement, some are not so excited.
“I think the class is a waste of an elective that could be used for something more productive,” sophomore Kevin Arevalo said.
With the newly required classes, all electives are seeing a decline in students that are signing up. Freshman and sophomores are required to take a laboratory science, english, history and math class, along with P.E. leaving them with only two free electives, one of which generally goes to a foreign language. Now students are required to take the economics and personal finances class before they graduate.
“I just want to get the class out of the way, so I can have more free electives,” Curtin said.
This desire to complete the course during the sophomore or junior year has shown to be detrimental as the enrollment for electives drops.
English teacher and yearbook advisor Julia Hanneman has not seen a decrease in overall enrollment for her yearbook class, but for students already on the yearbook staff.
“Some of my sophomores have come up to me and told me they have to drop yearbook for economics,” Hanneman said. “It’s sad because they’re usually the ones that will fill leadership positions last year, plus there are so many sophomores returning.
Because of these changes, at least one teacher from the math, science, history and english department may have to be let go. These spots that need to be removed may be instead compensated by teacher retirements.
“I hope the administration finds a way to keep all the teachers,” junior Sarah Padrutt said.
Over the past two years AHS has seen a dramatic change of its students and teachers alike, from the classes students are required to take to teachers trying to do what they can to keep their job and increase enrollment for their class.
Forbes found in a recent study that teaching was ranked as one of the most unhappy jobs.
According to business teacher Matthew Behne, around 330 students have already signed up for personal finance classes next year.
This is Behne’s fifth year in Fairfax County as a teacher. Before coming to Fairfax County, he worked in retail at Borders and CompUSA.
“I was working and making more money, but I wasn’t enjoying it,” Behne said. “In that sort of field, you’re ordering adults around and correcting them. As a teacher, it’s easier to correct students and teach them. That is more rewarding than the payment you receive.”
Behne does however highlight the frustration of teachers’ salaries.
“The pay for most teachers isn’t near what it should be for teachers to live comfortably in society,” Behne said. “Good teachers make a good school, and since pay isn’t based off performance, it may be that a great teacher gets paid the same amount as a bad teacher.”
In FCPS, pay is often determined by years of experience and what level of education a teacher has.
“[The most frustrating thing for teachers is] the student to teacher ratio,” Behne said. “When you have just one new student in the classroom, that’s another personality, someone else you have to stay after and help and more work to grade. It doesn’t make teachers unhappy, but it’s very stressful.”