Courses such as Advanced Placement Calculus BC and Advanced Acting 2 are at risk of not be held next year due to low enrollment, according Katonah-Lewisboro schools officials.
Ellen Doherty, the principal of John Jay High School, and Christopher Griffin, head of the district’s guidance department, gave a presentation on new course offerings and courses experiencing low enrollment during last week’s school board meeting.
According to Griffin, AP Calculus BC; AP Chemistry; Advanced Acting 2; and Take Two, a film studies course, are classes projected to have low enrollment. Courses with less than 15 students are considered to have a low enrollment.
“The high school administration is given, basically, guidelines on what courses we can run if the [enrollments] are below 15,” Griffin said. “One [we can run] is a terminal course, if it is the culmination of sequence of study.”
Griffin said the AP calculus and chemistry courses, along with Advanced Acting 2, are classes that were considered terminal.
Another example of a course that could be run with lower enrollment is a course that has just been established, Griffin said. The Take Two course falls under that guideline.
“Take Two is now running at 14 and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if, by September, we are above that number, at 15,” Griffin said.
Griffin said high school students are required to receive 22 credits in order to graduate with a state Regents diploma, but many students who are preparing for collegiate study often earn more than the minimum credit requirements. Last year’s high school graduating class earned an average of 28 credits, according to Griffin.
English and social studies classes range from 20 to 23 students for freshmen and sophomores and from 20 to 25 for juniors and seniors. The average size for math classes in the high school range from 21 to 23 students.
Griffin said space and equipment limitations are often used to define the cap that a classroom has. Other programs that are mandated by the state or federal government, like special education placements, are held even if their enrollment is considered low.
Warren Schloat, a member of the school board, wondered if there was a way to hold the courses and charge other interested students from neighboring school districts to attend them. Doherty said that Schloat’s idea has been discussed in the past, but it wasn’t seen as practical due to transportation and scheduling conflicts with the other school districts.
Peter Breslin, a member of the K-L school board, said he received a letter from a community member asking how the district could consider running low enrollment courses in the current economic environment. Breslin believes other community members might share this sentiment and said it was important to explain the financial educational implications of allowing the low enrollment classes to run.
“What would these kids do?,” Breslin asked Doherty and Griffin.
Doherty said students in the low enrollment courses would likely move on to another science class. Teachers who taught those lowly enrolled courses would likely be reassigned to teach other classes that have increased in size due to the influx of students who need to find another course.
Doherty said cutting the courses would affect the students in another way.
“Students here are interested in learning,” Doherty said. “They’re passionate about their learning and they’ve been thinking about it at least since they’ve entered high school and they have a very good sense about where they want to end up. To limit their opportunity after giving them what we’ve given them in elementary school and middle school…I think would be a travesty.”
Griffin and Doherty are expected to submit a proposal to the board of education seeking approval for the new courses by the end of May.
Editor’s note: The original story contained a quote from Christopher Griffin with a grammatical error; we have amended the copy and regret the error.