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Dunbar High students hold sit-in over loss of teachers, budget cuts

Dunbar High students hold sit-in over loss of teachers, budget cuts
Baltimore schools CEO Gregory Thornton (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore City's school chief will meet with disgruntled Paul Laurence Dunbar High School students on Monday to listen to complaints that led to a large sit-in Friday at the school.

About 200 students assembled in the school's atrium to protest the loss of teachers, budget cuts and the elimination of classes, according to school officials.

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Students became concerned this week when they saw the list of class offerings for next school year and heard that teachers were being excessed, according to Chief Academic Officer Linda Chen. Advanced Placement physics, introduced earlier this year, is being eliminated, but Chen said the school is adding Advanced Placement biology.

Decisions about teaching positions for next year have been made based on projected enrollment and courses offered, and earlier this week, Dunbar teachers were notified about their status for next school year. "Students are very attached to teachers," Chen said. "Sometimes positions shift within the school."

The $6 million school budget for next year reflects a $50,000 cut from this year.

Chen said school leaders have met with the class of rising seniors to clarify some issues about course selection. "Kids weren't understanding all of the changes," she said.

Dunbar, located just west of Johns Hopkins Medical Center in East Baltimore, is one of the more selective high schools in the city and has programs focused on careers in health and the sciences.

School officials said the students wrote down their concerns after they were told to return to their classrooms. "In support of students' taking ownership of their education, school leadership, district staff, and student government leaders together developed a plan to enable regular school activities to resume," the school system said in a statement.

Students will be able to address their questions directly to CEO Gregory Thornton, who will come to the school on Monday for a series of assemblies.

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