Lawrence school board approves elimination of some high school courses, addition of others

photo by: USD 497

The Lawrence school board meets at district offices on Nov. 28, 2022.

The Lawrence school board has approved various course additions and eliminations for the district’s high school students.

As part of its meeting Monday, the Lawrence school board voted 7-0 to approve 16 high school course eliminations, 19 course additions, and eight course changes. Chief Academic Officer Patrick Kelly said most of the eliminated courses were being replaced with similar courses, but that some Career and Technical Education course offerings, or “pathways,” were being eliminated entirely.

“Quite honestly with some of the staffing reductions that we’ve had, we needed to look at some pathways going away,” Kelly said.

The district eliminated about 75 teaching positions as part of $6.4 million in budget cuts ahead of this school year. Kelly said the two course pathways that will be eliminated are in the subject areas of law and public service, and government and public administration.

Some course changes include offering several classes, including ceramics, photography and drawing, to ninth grade students, and offering portfolio studio drawing and painting to 10th grade students. One course offering that is entirely new is beginning orchestra. Kelly said the board’s action meant that the new courses would be in the course book, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the district will teach the course, as that depends on the number of course requests and staffing.

“Just because we approve a new course doesn’t mean we offer the course,” Kelly said. “It’s in the handbook, students can make the course request, but then principals take all those course requests, and looking at staffing, looking at teacher licensure, looking at facilities, they have to make some sometimes very tough choices.”

Other additions include several work-based learning courses. Those include work-based learning in the field of computer programming, information technology, transportation, construction and design, engineering, finance, culinary, manufacturing and biomedical. Kelly said those changes were based on new graduation requirements that allow students to do work-based learning, and the district would help coordinate those opportunities for students interested in those areas of study.

Under board policy, the board must approve all course additions, eliminations, or major alterations to a course of study. Kelly said the plan is to have the new course book completed by Jan. 1, so students could begin looking at course offerings for next school year at that time.

As part of the meeting, district administrators also went over a schedule for when the district plans to purchase and adopt new curriculum for various subjects at the elementary, middle school and high school levels. Some of those purchases will be happening more slowly than previously discussed due to staffing and funding levels, and Kelly said administrators discussed those decisions carefully given budget constraints.

“It’s always our hope to give the number one thing that our teachers are asking for, but sometimes we just don’t have the resources to do that,” Kelly said. “And so we are often asking them give us priority one, two and three.”

School Board Vice President Paula Vann asked about the status of the ongoing effort to create Indigenous curriculum for the school district. To better support the effort, Kelly said the district is working on finding funding sources to pay those working to create the curriculum. School board member Carole Cadue-Blackwood added that the group was in the process of applying for grants to help fund the work.

photo by: USD 497

School Board Vice President Paula Vann, School Board Past President Erica Hill, and school board member Carole Cadue-Blackwood are pictured on Nov. 28, 2022, as the board discusses changes to district courses and curriculum.

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