Byline: Christie Hart Daily Herald Staff Writer
Stephanie Sladek and her classmates have a lot more say in what they do in gym class this year now that there's no physical education teacher to get in the way.
The Johnson Elementary School students, along with everyone else in Bensenville Elementary District 2, lost their gym, art and music teachers this school year. School officials said they couldn't afford to have teachers fill 17 specialized teaching positions, and they're asking voters Tuesday for more property tax money.
Students noticed the difference without their physical education teacher right away - especially students like those in Stephanie's class who are in sixth grade and know from experience how their classes are supposed to work.
"The teachers used to explain the rules to us. Now the kids have to explain the rules to the teachers," Stephanie said. "I kind of like this year. We still get to play games and do the things you want. (But) this year, we don't learn anything in gym."
Instead, they spend some of their gym time waiting around while their classroom teacher sets up cones or wheels out a rack of basketballs. And things can get a little out of hand.
"There isn't any sportsmanship," student Michael Brandt said. "Sometimes gym is just a lesson in (how to demonstrate) sportsmanship."
And it's the same story in art class and in music class, which kids say happen irregularly. Students used to work on murals or sculpt copper foil, but now their projects are "more like paper and glue," Michael said. Music class used to start with appreciating masters like Beethoven and include learning how to play instruments, but now kids are just singing songs.
Classroom teachers, who received some training in the specialty areas before becoming certified, are filling in for the specialty teachers in hopes that the situation is temporary. District 2 is asking residents for more property tax money that would, in part, allow the district to rehire some specialty teachers.
Voters from Wood Dale and Bensenville will decide whether to allow the district to raise the property tax rate by 45 cents per $100 of assessed value. If approved, the owner of a $120,000 house would pay about $164 more annually to the district.
In addition to cutting the 17 specialty teachers, the district also eliminated the gifted program, intramurals and librarians at the elementary schools.
No further cuts are planned if voters defeat the tax increase proposal.
Residents opposed to the increase say it would be too much of a drain on their household budgets, and note that students still are getting some instruction in the fine arts and physical education.
"We're scraping by just to pay our taxes as it is. I really don't think they need that money," said Josie McReynolds, a Wood Dale resident.
Experts say, however, the limited instruction is not enough. …