It was the first day of junior year, and I was waiting to receive my schedule. I was excited to see if I received the classes that I had requested the year before. When I received my schedule I did a double take—there was no way it could be mine. Unfortunately, it was. I was not in the orchestra, where I had been playing the oboe for the past two years; neither was I in Latin nor Italian, two requests for language I had bubbled in with my pencil the winter before. Instead the school placed me in Spanish conversation, which is equivalent to fourth year Spanish—yet I had never even taken Spanish! One bureaucratic mistake I could deal with, but it looked like things were going to get worse before they'd be resolved. I had to wait until the next day to resolve my schedule. It was only after I had waited on extremely long lines that I found the culprit was budget cuts so severe, the likes of which hadn't been seen in years.
Because of these cuts Latin and Italian had become even more limited in terms of how many students could be accommodated. Freshmen were given priority so they could begin their Regents requirement in language. I had already completed the requirement with French. After talking to the conductor of the orchestra, I found out that I was purposely dropped from the class because they needed the spots for the freshmen. Although, another reason I was dropped was because he said I did not practice enough, which I knew was true. I was still disappointed because I enjoyed the class, but even more so because it was now too late to take another elective.
I was not the only one at my school who was affected by budget cuts. None of my friends who applied for a painting class were placed in it this year, because, well, there is no painting class at Bronx Science—arts are always the first to go because they are considered elitist. Rakesh Roy, a junior at Bronx Science, had to say: “I was looking forward to it and they cut it two years in a row, so I don't think that is really fair.” Classes should not be offered if they are not going to exist. Even though this was not the first year for budget cuts at my school. Last year the Junior Band and the Woman's Ensemble (girl's chorus) were cut; the budget cuts were felt considerably more this school year.
Although the Board of Education promised to reinstate some of the money that was cut, the flow of the money, if it was replaced, was not felt. The cuts are especially harmful to juniors who can not write on their transcript when they apply to college during senior year, “The only reason I have three free periods a day is because, my school had to cut the art class that I wanted to take.” Junior year programs are what College Admissions look at the most. At least if a student is a freshman or sophomore they still have one or two more years to build up a more impressive transcript.
My friends and I have started to wonder—if the cuts are affecting an elite city school like Bronx Science, then what is happening at the more depressed areas? In our conversations at lunch and in-between classes, despite the anger, an empathy has developed for the less privileged students. So ironically because of the mess we are in, we have learned to identify with those who may not go to an elite school like Bronx Science. This is something that no rigorous class could have taught us.#
Sophie Solomon is a student at the Bronx High School of Science.