Hope yet for adult education classes

As the stereo filtered through its playlist, a youthful candor could be seen in the steps of a group of elderly students rhythmically moving to each beat; sometimes in lines, other times in pairs, often with big smiles and a light sweat. All part of the low-impact joint maneuvers class that keeps the students of Emeritus College fluid and vibrant. It's hard to imagine that just over a month ago students here were in uproar over a mandate by the Chancellor's Office of Community Colleges that would eliminate apportionment funding, roughly $400,000 annually, to non-credit recreational classes. In response, the college would cut four health related classes only to reintroduce them as reduced-fee based courses.

Since then, course fees have been waived altogether through scholarship funding and the district has stepped in and subsidized scheduled health classes for the remainder of the school year while having to pay a backfill of $263,280 in instructional salaries.

In addition the college has already begun revising course outlines to fit under the Chancellors office mandate and have brought in Barbara Baird, retired communications department chair, to do so.

The initial problem was that the current health and conditioning sections were listed under a category which, for years, met the regulations of the state but have since fallen under Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations which states that, "No state aid or apportionment may be claimed on account of the attendance of students in noncredit classes in dancing or recreational physical education."

The district hopes that revising the curriculum and listing the courses, under a new category of health, will resolve the issue over time. Revisions will have to go through an approval process; first by a curriculum committee, followed by the academic senate, the board of trustees, and the chancellor's office.

Courses in fall prevention, stress reduction, joint maneuvers, and body conditioning for stroke recovery were among the first to be revised but have yet to be approved at the state level. "That's fine with me as long as we get the activity that we need," said Pat Allen, a resident of Santa Monica and student at Emeritus.

Although students like Allen and her joint maneuvers classmate Wally Pegram are grateful for the district's efforts, they remain skeptical about the future. "We are not burying our heads in the sand because a lot of things can fall through the crack in a year," said Pegram. "But we are most appreciative of what has happened thus far."

Meanwhile, due to California's current economic situation, reductions are on the horizon. According to Ron Furuyama, Associate Dean at Emeritus, the college will be making about a 50 percent reduction overall for the winter which is keeping in line with the reductions that Santa Monica College will be making.

"Our senior students are so important to the college, they're really a backbone of the community," said Baird.

For now, Emeritus students relish in the fact that their voices were finally heard. On this particular day the last song the stereo had to offer at the low-impact joint maneuvers class seemed appropriate for the occasion as the speakers blared out a Sam Cooke rendition of "This Little Light of Mine." The whole class joined the chorus in unison.

"A-Amen, A-Amen, Amen!"