Berlin Schools Plan to Cut Firefighter Course

As cities and towns across the state try to find ways to save money, certain elective courses at local high schools often run the risk of getting cut. In Berlin, that could mean getting rid of the district’s automotive, wood shop and firefighter courses.

That hits home for Kensington Fire Department Lt. James Wall. He went through the program and has since grown from a high school student to a lieutenant.

“There are not many in the state that actually offer [the program],” said Wall. “It’s pretty much a simplified firefighter 101 class.”

There could soon be one fewer, if the town approves the district’s budget Tuesday April 24. Berlin Public Schools Superintendent Brian Benigni told NBC Connecticut this decision wasn’t easy, but it is necessary because, he said, enrollment in certain electives is down and times are just that tough.

“We’ve had no new positions, we’ve made over 2.5 percent decrease in the budget,” said Benigni regarding the district’s efforts. “The education budget’s at 1.99 percent moving forward, and that’s with letting people go.”

Wall said more than a quarter of Kensington’s firefighters got their start at Berlin High’s program. He sees these cuts as something bigger.

“Especially with the decline in volunteer firefighters right now,” said Wall. “It’s going to hurt us big time.”

It doesn’t have to hurt big time, Benigni said. The school just needs a little help.

“If we can work in conjunction with the fire department to have those courses remain, and we have a certified teacher working with someone who has expertise, there’s a chance we can still maintain that course,” said Benigni.

He believes the most recent cuts will save Berlin schools roughly $180,000 per year.

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