CARLSBAD — Journalism students from La Costa Canyon High School implored the San Dieguito Union High School District board of trustees on May 2 to save their journalism class, which will be eliminated from course offerings in the upcoming school year.
More than a dozen students showed up in protest at the board meeting after they learned early last week that La Costa Canyon Principal Kyle Ruggles had decided not to offer journalism as a course option next year. The journalism program, which produces the monthly MavLife student newspaper, will instead be available only as an extracurricular after-school activity.
Editor-in-Chief Megan Mineiro said some students suspect Ruggles cut the journalism class in response to articles and opinions the newspaper published that were unfavorable to the administration at La Costa Canyon. Students at the recent board meeting handed out copies of the March edition of MavLife, which featured an article and an editorial criticizing the school’s decision to cut the position of athletic director.
In an interview after the meeting, Ruggles said the content of the newspaper had nothing to do with his decision. He said he thought the athletic director article was “fabulously written.”
“I’ve been very impressed and pleased with the work they’ve done,” Ruggles said.
The real reason for cutting the journalism class is declining enrollment, he said.
“We’ve had a drop of student interest in the journalism program and the journalism class,” Ruggles said. “We had a low number of students register for the class next year.”
MavLife editors have doubts about that explanation. Twenty-six students registered for the class initially, and last week the journalism students managed to recruit another 11 students into the class, raising next year’s enrollment to 37, Mineiro said.
Data compiled by MavLife editors shows that La Costa Canyon High School had 65 classes with an enrollment of fewer than 35 students last year.
When the editors presented this new information to Ruggles last week, they were told it was too late to make changes to the school’s master schedule, Mineiro said. Ruggles also declined their proposal to combine the journalism class with another class, such as creative writing.
Whatever the reason for cutting the journalism class, it seems clear now that students who want to work on MavLife next year will have to do it after school, potentially interfering with other extracurricular activities. Mineiro said she would have to quit the cross country and track teams in order to find the time to fulfill her duties as editor in chief.
Ruggles said the school will still provide a stipend to whomever advises the journalism program next year. Suzi Van Steenbergen, who teaches the journalism class, said regardless of the decision on next year’s journalism class, she will keep her job teaching AP English Language and Composition as well as AVID, a college readiness course.
MavLife’s circulation ranges from 1,000 to 1,500 copies, Mineiro said. The journalism students sell advertising and subscriptions to cover the roughly $1000 it costs to print each issue, so the status of the course will not affect funding to cover printing costs.
Ruggles said the school is struggling with a drop in enrollment. There will be 800 fewer students on campus this fall than there were three years ago, he said. As a result, administrators have been forced to cut staff and programs.
Those cuts are hurting students and weakening school spirit, said Chase McAllister, a MavLife photographer who spoke at the May 2 board meeting.
“Journalism being cut is just one of the many things that is diminishing on our campus,” McAllister said.
MavLife Sports Editor Anthony Fregoso said the district should prioritize La Costa Canyon’s journalism class because it fulfills many of the Common Core standards by which the district must abide.
“It seems that cutting this course at this time is the exact opposite of what we should be doing,” Fregoso said.
California’s Brown Act barred SDUHSD board members from discussing the issues presented by the students, but board President Barbara Groth asked Deputy Superintendent Rick Schmitt to investigate the matter on behalf of the district.