From the graveyard of anticipated budget cuts, electives are springing back to life for the Clark County School District.
Bonanza High School is looking to restore photography, painting, Spanish and, mon dieu, French.
Arbor View High School had already brought back choir from the dead. It now wants to reboot computer-assisted drafting.
Green Valley High School can hire back as many as six teachers but has not decided yet which programs might be affected .
"This is huge," said Green Valley Principal Jeff Horn, who had feared much bigger class sizes next year. "I really couldn't ask for more."
On Friday, school principals were told by the district's human resources department to staff at last year's levels.
For grades six to 12, average class sizes will stay at 32 students instead of the 34 as previously budgeted.
Average class sizes for the elementary grades, which were expected to go up by three students, are returning to 18 students for first and second grades, 21 for third grade and 30 for grades four and five.
Because the School District had previously budgeted for a $407 million shortfall, many principals had planned for cuts in foreign languages, the arts and other electives to protect the core subjects and to keep more popular courses.
With the passage of the state budget, the district now anticipates a shortfall of $150 million. The School Board is expected to get a revised budget for 2011-12 on Thursday.
Friday's decision to staff at last year's levels will be a "great relief" to the 1,000 teachers waiting for job assignments, said Ruben Murillo, the president of the local teachers union, the Clark County Education Association.
With the increased staffing and normal employee turnover creating additional job openings, district officials are hopeful that teacher layoffs won't be necessary for the new school year.
The district is trying to be conservative by staffing schools at 97 percent. Michael Rodriguez, a spokesman for the district, said that class sizes will still be bigger than what they were two years ago.
It is difficult to predict which elective classes will be restored because that decision is being made at each school. Principals must consider factors such as class sizes, student interest and whether they can find a teacher for the particular subject.
Rodriguez said students and parents should contact their school if they have questions about a particular class.
"We now have more flexibility," said Bart Mangino, principal of Bonanza High.
He had wondered how to be fair in eliminating foreign language classes. He did not want to offer a Spanish III course at the expense of cutting a French III class. So the plan was to tell Bonanza students to take their foreign languages classes over the Internet through the district's Virtual High School.
Because Bonanza will be able to hire back as many as eight additional teachers, "we will be able to bring back those programs with live bodies," Mangino said.
While there is still some uncertainty for reasons of enrollment and teacher availability, "we are going to try to bring back our foreign languages and fine arts as much as we can," Mangino said.
"In a perfect world, you would like to be able to offer everything," he said.
Pat Hayden, the principal of Arbor View, is interested in restoring classes in computer-assisted drafting, but fears the teacher has already found another job.
If Arbor View cannot offer drafting next year, it will try again the following year, he promised.
Electives are critical to a college application because universities want multi dimensional students, said Peter Starkweather, the dean of the Honors College at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
"We look for students taking the most challenging classes," Starkweather said. "We urge all our potential applicants to have some foreign language experience, even though it might have been optional" in high school.
Starkweather sympathizes with high schools having to cut electives. "It's difficult at the university to provide (a level of) richness with people leaving and that sense of impending doom," he said.
But Victor Joecks, the communications director for the conservative Nevada Policy Research Institute, thinks the budget cuts were greatly exaggerated to squeeze the taxpayer.
District officials "try to make it sound as horrible as possible," Joecks said. "It's shameful to prey on public opinion and the sympathy of parents and teachers, but it's powerful. I cannot deny it."
Contact reporter James Haug at email@example.com or 702-374-7917.