Electives recover after the pandemic

Mia Carr, news editor

Despite lower elective enrollment in the past two years due to Covid-19 and South’s declining student population, popularity of most electives is back on the rise this year, administration officials said. 

While departments such as Fine Arts faced a decline in elective enrollment, electives in the Career and Technical Education (CTE) department remained stable throughout the pandemic, Dawn Hall, CTE Instructional Supervisor, said. In the 2021-2022 school year, 3,312 students requested to take CTE electives, and this year 3,588 students requested CTE electives, a major increase from last year, she explained. English Department electives such as Creative Writing and Film Studies, however, have faced a decline in enrollment; 145 students requested to take English electives last school year, and only 110 students requested to take those electives this year, David Adamji, English Department Instructional Supervisor, said. He explained that because of the decline in South’s student population, there are fewer students available to take electives.

“[Elective popularity] is largely based on enrollment numbers [of the school overall],” Adamji said. “[The school population] is going to impact natural elective numbers, [but] it’s hard to know what next year’s enrollment is going to automatically look like.”

Since returning to in-person learning, Fine Arts electives such as band have increased in enrollment because students are physically in the building, Cody Halberstadt, Fine Arts Instructional Supervisor, said.

“[Band is] on a solid trajectory [upwards],” Halberstadt said. “Our freshmen band enrollment more than quadrupled from last year to this year.”

However, group-based electives in the Fine Arts Department faced a decline in enrollment due to safety concerns surrounding Covid-19, Halberstadt said. 

“There [were] a lot of unknowns surrounding [group activities and] the safety of participating in them [during Covid-19],” Halberstadt said. 

A prime example of this is choir, Shellard said. Due to Covid-19 regulations, choir programs in middle schools, which feed into South, were unable to follow through on their usual recruitment tactics, he explained.

“[District 34 did] not [allow teachers from South] into their buildings, so we sang for [their choir] in the parking lot at seven in the morning on a 45 degree day [to recruit students],” Shellard said. “We haven’t been able to make the connections we usually have with the middle schools.”

Hall credited “the allure of SRT” as another reason for decreases in elective enrollment, as some students may choose to have an SRT instead of an elective to support their course load and extracurricular commitments.

“[Some students may think] ‘I want to be successful academically, so I’m going to take two SRTs [instead of electives].’” Hall said. “[Increased] SRTs [cause lower] numbers in electives.”

This year in-person, Hall noticed elective enrollment going up due to students’ renewed interest in the elective classes offered. Hall emphasized the importance and impact electives have on students throughout the building.

“We often see students find their interest and potential [college] major or career [through electives],” Hall said. “The opportunity to explore different paths and courses [through electives at South] is incredible and unlike any other high school I’ve been in or know about.”