It wasn’t a perfect statement, but a majority of Janesville School Board members thought it was important to make it.
They voted 6-2 Tuesday to pass a resolution regarding school safety and gun control. Board member Greg Ardrey was absent.
The resolution, written in response to the shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, will be sent to Janesville’s state and federal legislators and asks for comprehensive legislation that “effectively addresses our nation’s persistent and pervasive gun problem.”
Such legislation should include mandatory universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons and rapid-fire devices such as bump stocks, the resolution said. In addition, such legislation should prohibit people who are under domestic violence restraining orders from having guns, and it would prevent students, teachers or parents from possessing guns on school grounds.
Two problems arose during the discussion of the resolution.
Board member Jim Millard asked the board to add a request that the legal age for buying a weapon be raised to 21.
Kevin Murray said he wouldn’t be comfortable raising the age for buying weapons such as hunting rifles.
There was a short debate about how much should be included in resolutions.
“We could debate this and debate this,” Murray said of all the provisions that could be included in such a resolution.
Millard’s resolution failed on a tie vote.
Board member Michelle Haworth said she had a number of concerns about the resolution. She said universal background checks were already in place, as were laws prohibiting who are under domestic violence restraining orders from owning guns.
Board member Ben Dobson said universal background checks did not apply to private sales.
Haworth also expressed concern that the resolution was a political maneuver.
Cathy Myers, who proposed the resolution, is one of two Democrats hoping to run against Speaker Paul Ryan in the 1st Congressional District.
In addition, Haworth said she would like a “more robust” resolution that would address more than just the gun issue.
Myers said she thought schools had done their fair share in terms of increasing safety at schools and working on mental health issues.
Now it was time for legislators to do some work, Myers said.
Myers acknowledged that not one thing would fix the entire problem but thought the board’s collective voice needed to be heard.
The proposal to postpone the vote until the first meeting in April failed 6-2, with Steve Huth and Haworth voting in favor of postponing it. Huth and Haworth were the dissenters in the final vote on the resolution.
Before the meeting, one person spoke for the resolution and another spoke against it, saying it was “basically telling our elected officials to violate our Second Amendment rights.”
Chinese classes to be phased out of elementary schools
The board also listened to a plan to discontinue teaching Chinese in elementary schools.
Currently, about 140 students are taking Chinese at the elementary school level, said Allison DeGraaf, the district’s director of curriculum and innovation. By the time kids reach eighth grade, fewer than 20 students are taking it.
DeGraaf proposed that all sixth-grade students be allowed to take Chinese as part of a language survey course. Instead of relying on of elementary school students to keep taking Chinese in middle school, all middle schoolers would have a chance to take the class.
The board did not have to vote on the change because the program was not being discontinued. The teachers would be working with a different group of students, explained Scott Garner, assistant superintendent of administrative and human services.
The change will not take place immediately. Next year, the third-grade classes would be eliminated. In the following years, the fourth- and then the fifth-grade class would be eliminated.
New staffing plan
means class changes
The board approved the staffing plan for the 2018-19 school year.
As a result, a number of high school courses will be cancelled or combined. This happens every year and depends on the number of students who sign up for classes. At the high schools, the teacher-to-pupil ratio is 1 to 32, but exceptions are made for certain classes.
About 62 classes will be cancelled. Of those, only nine have 11 or more students enrolled for next year.
Two advanced placement classes, AP French and AP Physics 2, are being cancelled. Only one person signed up for AP French and nine students signed up for AP Physics 2.
Cancelled classes include film making 2, vocal jazz, anatomy and physiology 2, Microsoft Word, principles of baking, aerospace engineering, digital electronics, and business communications.
A number of classes will be combined. They include:
In the language department: Chinese IV, Chinese V and AP Chinese; French IV and French V; and Spanish V and AP Spanish.
In the art department: advanced ceramics and AP 3-D design; drawing II, advanced studio drawing and AP Drawing; photography and advanced studio photography; and AP 3-D art.
Overall, enrollment is expected to be up by 28 students, with most of the increase coming in grades two, three, nine and 11.