AURORA | Social media channels within the Rangeview High School community erupted last week after students and staff there learned that the school is planning to prune its business curriculum.
Dozens of students voiced their displeasure with the recent decision on Twitter using the hashtag #SaveRangeviewBusiness.
The outcry stemmed from a Feb. 8 announcement that outlined Rangeview’s plans to scale back on business classes and clubs offered at the school and instead rely on existing classes offered at the Community College of Aurora and Pickens Technical College to satisfy business offerings.
“Due to the redundancies in what our community colleges and we offer, we have made the decision to move our investments in the education of our students in other areas of need,” Ron Fay, principal at Rangeview, wrote in a Feb. 8 letter to the parents of Rangeview students.
Starting in the 2016-17 school year, Rangeview students seeking to enroll in business classes such as “PC Applications” or “Introduction to Business” will be pointed to equivalent classes available at CCA and Pickens, which is operated by Aurora Public Schools and several other state entities, according to Patti Moon, spokeswoman for APS.
“Some people were saying, ‘oh no, Rangeview students will not have the opportunity to take business classes and FBLA will be out of reach,’ and that’s just not true,” Moon said. “Business classes and opportunities are still going to be available to Rangeview students; they will just be through Pickens or CCA.”
Moon said that the cuts, which were spearheaded by Fay, are being made in favor of doubling down on classes tied to science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. She said that the rationale for curtailing the business program and buoying STEM is tethered to the fact that enrollment in business classes has gone down, while the number of students taking STEM classes has steadily crept up in recent years.
“The interest in STEM has been growing at Rangeview, and the sense is there has been less interest in some of the business classes there.”
Business classes currently offered at Rangeview are electives and are not required to graduate.
Despite sinking participation, the decision to largely dismantle the business program at Rangeview irked Senior Hailey Dearman, president of the school’s DECA chapter.
“The business department has slowly been losing support, but I will not give up on it,” she wrote in an open letter to Fay.
Extracurricular clubs like Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and DECA, both of which help students interested in fields like marketing, management and finance prepare for entering the professional world, will also be retooled, according to Moon. While students will still be able to pursue activities with FBLA at Pickens, the future of Rangeview’s DECA chapter is less certain. Moon said she is unsure if students will be able to continue DECA activities next year.
“I am appalled to be learning that the school plans to shut down the business department next year. This is something that I refuse to stay quiet about, as the business department is so important to many students,” Dearman wrote in her letter. “It has fueled so many future interests and careers, and has given students amazing opportunities. DECA and FBLA (another club offered at Rangeview) can give students wonderful scholarships, and looks great on college applications.”
Dearman cited the lack of transportation options and the significant time commitment required to get to CCA and Pickens as hurdles for future students interested in enrolling in business courses at either of the satellite campuses.
“I think it presents a huge challenge,” Dearman wrote in a Twitter message. “It worries me that there might be some freshman and sophomores who might show an interest in business but won’t have a way to get there. Underclassmen aren’t old enough to have a license, and they won’t always have friends or family who would be able to drive them every day.”
She said that she was interested in taking a class at Pickens last school year, but the necessary travel time would have required her to sacrifice two class slots and prevented her from enrolling in the course.
Abel Negussie, a sophomore at Rangeview who is involved with FBLA, echoed Dearman’s thoughts on the impending transportation quagmire.
“I understand that most seniors and some juniors have other transportation options, but personally I can’t drive so I definitely would not be able to take any business classes next year,” he said. “It’s really difficult to try and take any classes that are not at Rangeview. Maybe senior year I’d be able to do it, but the transportation barrier is the main issue next year becauase I won’t have my license by then.”
The dustup at Rangeview has also caused a kerfuffle among alumni and local business owners who champion programs like DECA and FBLA. Kevin Cullis, an entrepreneur who has taught programs similar to DECA in Lakewood, said that he grants priority to resumes that boast FBLA or DECA involvement and that the programs should be mandatory.
“Every kid should go through DECA (for) at least a semester,” Cullis said. “It doesn’t mean that every kid who learns from DECA or FBLA is going to own a business, but what it does is it makes you a better employee. If you understand what a business person is thinking about, you bring more skill sets and a better approach to doing your job.”
Moon said that the Rangeview administration will continue to communicate with students, staff and parents about the transition from business to STEM until the new school year begins in August.