Picking up the Pieces

German class cuts lead to a stressful schedule for Ms. Dumas


Riley Wania

Ms. Dumas watches her students during her first hour German 2 course, her only class at FHC. She hopes to spend more time in this classroom next school year.

As the bell to dismiss first hour rings, German teacher Melissa Dumas grabs her bag and her jacket and makes the trek over to Saeger Middle School. After her first hour German 2 class, Ms. Dumas spends her day at the middle school teaching a wide variety of subjects. This is a major change from her usual full slate of German classes 

“This quarter I have three hours of ISAP and then I teach German 1 fifth hour and then eighth-grade Engineering By Design sixth hour,” Ms. Dumas said.

This schedule, however, is ever-changing. At each new quarter, one class ends and a new class begins.

“The other quarters I have sixth grade World Cultures and then engineering for seventh grade,” Ms. Dumas said. 

Over the course of the school day, Ms. Dumas teaches in two different buildings and five different classrooms. This is a far cry from the traditional one-classroom setup. Teaching such a diverse schedule in such a turbulent environment is not without its challenges.

“It takes about an hour to prep a lesson almost, especially a lesson you’ve never taught before,” Ms. Dumas said. “So I look through curriculum guides and meet with other teachers to see what they’ve done, what works, what doesn’t work, what materials I have, and go from there.”

Completing this process for five different classes every single night is a stressful undertaking, but to keep teaching the classes she loves, it’s what she has to do.

“I love my German classes, especially German 1 because they’re still excited about learning the language,” Ms. Dumas said. “I was told at the end of last year that my numbers weren’t big enough to keep the class, so therefore they had to find something for me [to teach] to be full-time, and this is what was offered.”

 It can be hard to find the magic number of students necessary for a German class to run, for this number changes from class to class and from year to year. Deciding which classes to run and which classes to cut takes months and months and requires a lot of data according to principal Dr. Sonny Arnel. 

“We start this process in late January, early February,” Dr. Arnel said. “It’s all based on where students enroll, and then class averages, class size from there, and then I have to make some decisions on how that puzzle fits together.”

Once the data on class sizes and staffing needs is gathered, it is time for administration to make tough decisions.

“That’s a really tough decision, and I really am making my best worst decision because [the options] are all terrible,” Dr. Arnel said. “I had to reduce some classes that I really had no desire to reduce.”

After the decision has been made, Dr. Arnel works to find new opportunities for affected teachers like Ms. Dumas who want to remain full-time teachers.

“Some teachers may be reduced here a little bit and they may teach here some and then teach in other middle schools or other high schools to keep their contract full and make sure they have a full-time job,” Dr. Arnel said.

One way to alleviate the stress of Ms. Dumas’ hectic schedule is for more students to register to take German courses, but due to low enrollment in the last couple of years, this may be easier said than done. Junior Liam Nachtrab had gotten all the way through German 2 when he found out the upper-level courses were being cut.

“I was disappointed when they cut the German classes,” Nachtrab said. “It’s something totally unique. Learning a language is something that’s different from anything you’ll ever experience.”

The source of the conflict isn’t purely low registration numbers. FHSD has been unable to pass a tax levy since 2004.  Without more money, we will continue to cut classes and continue to cut teachers. What was enough in 2004 is not enough in 2022. Cutting teachers stresses staff which can affect the quality of education for our students.

“We must have community support in supporting a tax levy so we can increase our staff,” Dr. Arnel said.

If the FHSD community can pass a tax levy, we can help teachers like Ms. Dumas get back to teaching the classes they love.