Franklin Regional board considers once again offering theater electives

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 8:52 p.m.

Local teenagers who are interested in the performing arts might have more options for electives next school year.

Franklin Regional officials plan to resume offering two electives – theater arts and advanced acting – at the high school next fall. The classes, which haven't been offered for at least the past four years, were part of a recommendation by a committee of teachers, board members, parents and administrators that reviewed the creative and performing arts curriculum.

“Pending our staff availability and student interest, we'd like to bring these courses back and make them available to our students,” said Shelley Shaneyfelt, director of instructional services.

“The committee was very interested in this.”

Typically, courses are eliminated after three years of inactivity, Shaneyfelt said.

For a course to stay on the schedule, at least 15 students must express interest – though, due to scheduling conflicts, fewer students might enroll in the class.

That's what ultimately pulled the two electives from the course schedule, board Vice President Paul Scheinert said.

“It became an issue of student selection,” Scheinert said.

“I support bringing them back. It's a wonderful opportunity for our students. We should give them every opportunity they can get.”

The district offers seven creative and performing arts electives at the high school – television and video production, advanced television production, advanced video production, introduction to yearbook, advanced yearbook publications, introduction to journalism and advanced journalism. The three introduction-level courses are offered on a semester basis, while the advanced classes are year-long electives.

Four of the electives have less than 15 students enrolled this year – only yearbook classes and the introduction television and video class have 20 or more students.

When theater arts and advanced acting last were offered as an option, the classes had 13 and 12 students, respectively.

Theater arts was last offered in 2008-09, but did not run. Advanced acting has not been offered since 2006-07.

However, the district has a strong interest in performing arts at the middle school.

This year, officiails said 97 students signed up for an eighth grade performing arts class that could only seat 80 students. Each year, nearly 100 students sign up for the class – just less than a third of the eighth grade class.

The performing arts class presents the annual Veterans Day program, produces a news and announcement show and an annual musical.

“The interest is clearly there (at the high school) since we have a thespian club and a large number of students involved with the plays and musicals,” the committee wrote in its report.

“Returning graduates report that they regret not taking advantage of these courses when they were in high school.”

But high school students have a lot of choices in which electives to schedule, Shaneyfelt said, ranging from performance band to food and consumer science classes.

Under the seven-period schedule that will take effect next school year, students won't have study halls. There are options, Shaneyfelt said.

“We know we can over-saturate course offerings, and we don't want to do that,” she said. “The committee is simply saying to see if it's still running in that direction or if there is interest.”

Complicating matters is an uncertain budget season.

The 2013-14 school year will be the first year that officials can cut programs following a union concession package that was negotiated two years ago.

The district has raised taxes in for 10 consecutive years and is facing a burgeoning retirement contribution that could increase by about 33 percent under state mandate.

Board member Joe Seymour said deciding what electives to offer is a problem the district will wrestle with for the at least the next decade.

“Is it better to expand our offerings or to defend and enrich what we have?” Seymour said. “I question the timing of an expansion at this time.”

The classes will be options during the scheduling process for eighth through eleventh graders, but will not be offered unless there is at least 15 students interested and teacher availability to add the classes.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or

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