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An unexpected drop in the number of North Collins high school students taking core classes has cost a teaching assistant her job in the elementary school.

The board of education made the move Tuesday after a short executive session to discuss its options.

District officials learned in June that two part-time teachers in the high school ­– working at 70 percent of the full-time rate – did not have full teaching schedules because more students are taking self-contained special-education classes or have decided to take vocational classes.

In a move to save money, the board unanimously decided to cut one teaching assistant position and retain both part-time teachers. The cut was made at the elementary school because of seniority.

“The board didn’t want to be drastic, but they wanted to be fiscally responsible and do something,” Superintendent Joan D. Thomas said.

According to Thomas, district officials every year estimate the number of students who will take core classes and electives, but the actual number is not known until late April or May.

This year, “probably 50 percent are getting their core classes in their vocational setting, and that impacted the teaching load,” Thomas said. “We predicted, but our predictions weren’t accurate.”

Faced with having more teachers than necessary, Thomas provided the school board four options: Eliminate two full-time teaching positions; eliminate two full-time teaching assistants; eliminate one teaching assistant, or do nothing.

The first two options didn’t have much support from the board, with David Gier noting that students’ decisions are in a constant state of flux.

“One of the big effects I see is there’s 38 students taking vocational programs next year,” Gier said. “That can’t be anticipated at the time of the budget.”

Gier recalled one school year when there were only a handful of students in vocational programs but there was a “huge population” of students taking advanced placement courses.

The board’s decision was considered by Thomas to be the most equitable and cost-effective.

Thomas said the teaching overload was discovered in June, right before the end of the school year.

“The timing of this was horrible,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the elementary and high school principals will decide if either of the two retained part-time teachers will be transferred to the elementary school.