Sixty students can be assigned to a single study skills class, while most other electives are held to around 30 students for space and safety reasons.

Parents looking for ways to reduce cuts to arts programs in the school district thought they had found a great solution when they suggested replacing study skills classes at Ashland High School with extra electives.

Students would benefit much more from band, choir or drama than a study hall taken for credit, they reasoned.

But after a meeting with Superintendent Juli Di Chiro, the parents were shocked to find out that the classes are used as a cheaper alternative to keep class sizes down. Sixty students can be assigned to a single study skills class, while most other electives are held to around 30 students for space and safety reasons.

"We're not saying, 'Give us more money,' or 'Don't institute the cuts,' or 'Cut them and don't cut us,'" said DW Wood, president of Ashland High Arts Advocates. "Our position is, 'Let's be smart about this. Let's have vision.'"

Wood, who has two children in high school and one in middle school, said she doesn't want her kids taking study skills classes.

"They're so busy," she said. "That would be time they could learn something important."

Another parent of a high school student in study skills classes wrote Wood an e-mail advocating for an end to the class.

"I am appalled at this continuous waste of time that is actually considered a class," she wrote.

School perspective

Study skills classes will be cut along with everything else next year, Ashland High School Principal Jeff Schlecht said. Only freshman and sophomores will be able to take the classes, and juniors and seniors will have the option to take academic classes online through Grizznet, the school's secured Web site. Students can also stay after school every other day for eighth period, which was eliminated during budget cuts several years ago, and get extra help from teachers.

Study skills can be very beneficial for students in sports or drama who have hours of practice in the afternoons and evenings, and students are signing up for study skills instead of electives that can handle larger class sizes, Schlecht said.

The only classes that could absorb extra students are band, orchestra, choir or P.E., but those aren't as popular as they once were, Schlecht said.

"When we try to encourage kids to enter performing arts, band, orchestra or choir, they say, 'Well, I don't play any instruments; I don't sing.' So for a high-schooler that just doesn't seem to be a viable option for them," he said.

Schlecht has cut those classes as well as welding and some business classes because of low student interest, and classes across the board, not just electives, have been reduced with two phases of cuts this school year, he said.

Students speak

Students are divided over the benefits of a study skills class during the school day.

"I think it's a waste of time," said freshman Carl Gorbett, 15, who never even considered taking a study skills class. "There are so many other opportunities compared to a class where you just do homework."

Freshman Fernando Quispe often doesn't have enough homework to keep him busy, but his parents make him take it, he said.

His friend Sophia Therien, 14, also takes the class because of her parents.

"I hate it because I just sit there in the whole class," she said.

But for junior Abby Kollar, 17, a study skills class during school is the only way she gets to sleep during the water polo and tennis seasons.

"I've taken a study skills almost every semester," she said. "Instead of pulling an all-nighter, I can at least get two hours of sleep. I personally get a lot of work done."

This is the first semester she hasn't taken the class, and she can tell a definite difference.

"It's very hectic," she said. "I'm staying up later. I'm doing homework any possible time I can."

Sophomore Victoria Ward, 16, also felt she needed the extra time because she is taking a challenging science and language class and plays volleyball.

"I love it," she said. "I feel more motivated to get my homework done when I'm in a classroom because if I go home, I'll get distracted by other stuff," she said.