Classes on the brink…

While some South classes thrive, others are struggling to survive


Christina Politis

Junior Alex Linson works on his JV football spread for his 5th block Convergence Journalism 2 class. His teacher, Gavin Brady, is experiencing record-low enrollment numbers in his classes this year.

While some South High classes remain wildly popular, there are others that are hanging on for their existence.

South high offers a vast array of classes in different areas such as art, music, business, theater, and even core class electives. With this many class registration options, it is easy for certain classes to get lost in the shuffle for one reason or another when it becomes registration time.

An example of a class that struggles for students is Figure and Portraits. This is an art class that is similar to a college entry-level figure drawing class where you draw from a student model using pencils, charcoal, colored pencils, and pastels. This class has been taught by art teacher Eric Ludlow for 15 years and currently only has 13 students.

“Currently, I have 13 students enrolled in the class plus the cadet (who is the model),” Ludlow said.  “That is a little less than average for this class, but I have had as many as 26 in the class before.”

Music teacher Lisa Kinworthy teaches a class called AP Music Theory, a class that is mostly book-based that focuses on the building blocks of music and how sounds are put together to make what we hear today that we consider “good” or “not as good.” This class currently has 18 students this year, which Kinworthy says is a much larger number compared to previous years.

“I started teaching this class in 2001, It had around 10 students in it,” said Kinworthy. “The course wasn’t offered every year, as we needed to have 15 students or more request the course in order for it to be offered. Some years, it was combined with Intro to Music Theory, which wasn’t ideal as Intro was a beginner level course and AP was a collegiate level course.”

Assistant Principal Angie Pappas-Muyco said there aren’t many classes with fewer sign-ups this year and that the required student number differs between classes.

“We don’t really have many classes with a light enrollment this year,” Pappas-Muyco said. “It really is on a class-by-class basis.”

English teacher Barrett Taylor teaches an English elective called African-American Literature. This class is a course centered on reading, writing, and discussing literature written by African Americans, and discussing how the events, issues, and culture described in said literature have shaped and affected America. 

“We read books, we read literature written by African Americans, we talk about current events in terms of things that influence and affect not only African Americans but American people,” Taylor said. “We sometimes watch movies that are related. We do a lot of things that are similar to most English classes you take.”

Similar to Ludlow, Taylor started the year with only 13 students enrolled, however, this number has since dropped to 9, which Taylor says is significantly smaller than the number of students he had when he taught this course at his previous school which was significantly smaller than South High.

“So when I was at a smaller school that had about 500 students. I had 25 to 30 kids per class,” said Taylor

Another class that is suffering from low enrollment this year is Convergence Journalism 2-4, taught by journalism teacher Gavin Brady. Brady said 62 students took his prerequisite class last year, but only 15 of those kids decided to move on to CJ2, which produces the student newspaper and yearbook. In fact, this year Brady only has 3 seniors on yearbook staff–usually, he has between 20-30 seniors. 

“In 21 years of teaching at South High, I’ve never had numbers as low as this. We only have 10 students on newspaper staff and 28 on yearbook staff. It’s hard to even produce a 290-page yearbook with numbers that low,” he said. 

Brady said he has no idea why his classes are not as popular this year, but Ludlow believes that one of the reasons Figure and Portraits didn’t have as many students this year is due to virtual learning from last year.

“Last year I had to teach the class very differently as it was all virtual during the 1st quarter and so it wasn’t as appealing because students didn’t know what to expect this year,” Ludlow said.

Kinworthy, however, said she had the opposite happen to her because of virtual learning.

“This is a much larger number than most years. Students who took the class virtually have told me they spread the word about how much they enjoyed it, and it looks like it worked,” she said.

Kinworthy believes that the reason her class hasn’t gotten as many students enrolled is that her course is an AP class that is more specialized to people who are interested in music.

“This is a very specialized class that has a very specific prerequisite. Students need to be involved in music education in order to meet the prerequisites,” Kinworthy said. “It is not a natural progression for EVERY student to take the music courses necessary to qualify and then succeed in AP Music Theory.”

Taylor says that many factors could have affected student enrollment, including relationships with the teacher, student interest, and the fact that South has so many courses to choose from.

“Here it’s a much larger school with more options. You don’t have options to select when you have a small course catalog. You have to take what’s there, and I think it is a combination of things,” Taylor said.  “I think that there are some kids who don’t know, too. I think that it’s a class and anything is work, so some people don’t want to take a second English class. It’s hard to say. It could be wanting an easier schedule.”

According to Ludlow, one of the best ways to get students interested in taking a class is through the students themselves.

“I think that the best advertisement is always students talking to each other about their classes, so I will make sure that the current students talk to other students about how much they like the class because I have already heard that they are enjoying it immensely,” Ludlow said.

Kinworthy said that advertising to students as a whole wouldn’t be as effective as advertising the class to specific students interested in the subject.

“I believe it is a bit misleading to advertise the course to the general population because it is so specialized towards music,” Kinworthy says, “If a student has almost no music experience or only one semester of piano or guitar, taking AP Music Theory may be setting the student up for a difficult time because they lack the knowledge needed to succeed in AP Music Theory.”

Taylor says that some students don’t know about courses because he believes that teachers should let students choose enrollments on their own without advertising a class themselves.

“We don’t advertise courses, so some people don’t know. I was told that we were not supposed to be like ‘hey here’s our courses and classes you should take this’ because it potentially biases students on what they should and should not take. I don’t tell students about this class, I just let them enroll on their own,” Taylor said.