WESTERLY — An advanced placement computer science course and an honors level modern world history course are among new offerings that Westerly High School students will be able to select as electives.
The School Committee voted unanimously at its Nov. 13 meeting to approve seven new courses. Westerly High School Principal Michael Hobin said the decision to seek approval of the new courses was based on conversations involving teachers and students.
"The schedule should be student-driven by student choice" and the school should offer electives "that kids want to take and their families want them to take," Hobin said.
The new Advanced Placement Computer Science A course will be offered in addition to the current Computer Science Principles course. The new course, which students will take for a full academic year, is the equivalent of a first semester college level course in computer science for computer science majors, Hobin said. It will be geared toward juniors and seniors and will likely be taught by the same teacher who teaches the principles course. The new course is not expected to affect the school district's budget.
Modern World History honors will be for the high school's freshmen. Similar honors level classes are offered in English, math and science. The course will examine the political, economic, social and intellectual development of the world since the 18th century. The anticipated budget impact is $3,000 for new textbooks.
Screen Printing 2 will offer all students an opportunity to build on their technical and production skills in planning, designing and printing posters and clothing. There is no anticipated effect on the budget.
A new Theater Basics course will provide an introduction to theater focused on public speaking, character development and script analysis, and will be offered to all students. New books and scripts will be required but Hobin did not provide an exact cost for the new items.
The Focused Theater course will be offered to all students who will chose a focus from one of three elements for the semester: Acting, directing or script writing. New textbooks will be needed but Hobin did not provide the cost.
Advanced Theater will be offered to juniors and senors and will require new textbooks. Students will continue working on their focus topic from the previous course and will hone their knowledge and skills to an advanced level.
A Theater/TV/Film internship will allow seniors a chance to gain direct experience and training from local organizations including the Granite Theatre, United Theatre, and Colonial Theatre. There is no anticipated effect on the budget.
Hobin said the new theater courses fit well with the school's partnership with the Colonial Theatre of Rhode Island. Consideration is also being given to developing a career and technical education pathway for theater, Hobin said. In order to establish a pathway sanctioned by the state Department of Education, the school must first offer a requisite number of courses, he said.
The potential theater pathway could integrate the school's art, English, cosmetology, construction, and music programs, Hobin said. The school currently offers seven state-approved career and technical education pathways. The pathways are intended to provide students with the skills they need to be successful in the workforce.
Starting with the Class of 2021, Rhode Island high school students will be able to earn pathway endorsements on their high school diploma to certify that a student has acquired deep learning in a chosen area of interest and is prepared for employment or further education in a particular field. The school offers 19 pathway endorsements, Hobin said.
School Committee Chairwoman Diane Chiaradio Bowdy praised Hobin for looking for ways to provide learning experiences that involve an array of academic disciplines. "I like your thinking and the integration and student focus and for looking at the CTE requirements," Bowdy said.
The new course offerings are unlikely to require additions to the faculty, Hobin said. Rather than adding new teachers, Hobin said a large number of students in a certain elective usually means that another course is not attracting students, which frees up a teaching position.
In other business, the School Committee unanimously endorsed the re-establishment of a guidance department coordinator position. The title will be given to a current employee and will come with a $1,600 annual stipend, which will be prorated in the current school year.
Superintendent of Schools Mark Garceau said the position was eliminated during negotiations with the Westerly Teachers Association, the teachers union. "We have an excellent guidance department in place but when it comes to things like college applications and tracking class ranking and helping families with financial aspects, Mr. Hobin has said he really needs a point person," Garceau said.
Chiaradio Bowdy said, "I am in full support, I think at that level with CTE growing it's very important that every single student at Westerly High School is part of a process that is followed to a letter. If it's a parent's first student through the process it can be crazy. You want to be sure you can rely on that team to not let you miss anything and to make sure that every student is given the same opportunity."
The coordinator will also work with Westerly Middle School students to help eighth-graders prepare for the transition to high school and also help determine why some students decide to go to a different high school after completing their time at the middle school, Garceau said.