ORR Unveils New Course Selections

Old Rochester Regional High School Principal Mike Devoll is adding more advanced placement options, a broader range of technology courses, and a lineup of new 12th grade English offerings designed to add more interest to seniors.

On January 17 during the Old Rochester Regional School Committee meeting, Devoll said the foreign language AP courses, which currently only include Spanish and French, will next year also offer an AP Latin class.

In addition, English classes for seniors will include course titles such as “Monsters, Murder, and Madness” and some other English courses will see a few course descriptions altered for interest as well.

“We’re trying to make our twelfth-grade classes more thematic and engaging for our students,” said Devoll.

Although these types of English courses won’t be offered at the AP level, Devoll did say, “We will, in fact, be looking to open more doors for kids for AP English in the senior year…”

Technology classes will see some development next year as well, as a new technology teacher oversees a variety of new and updated STEM courses aimed at educating all types of students in computer sciences.

For example, a robotics course was renamed to entice a more diverse group of students into the technology classroom, and the general computer science course was also given a more contemporary name.

“’Computer Science,’” said Devoll, “Meh…” But a course titled “Computer Science For All,” Devoll said, regardless of gender or social status or ethnicity, “We’re hoping to kind of hop on the heels of what’s happening at the junior high school.”

Computer Science will also be offered at the advanced placement level.

“I feel like each year in my career as principal we’ve come forward with new AP courses that have attracted more kinds of kids,” said Devoll.

Other courses that are changing include the child development and parenting class, which will be broken down into two one-semester courses, beginning with Child Development semester one, followed by Early Childhood Education, “All leading to the Early Childhood Education II, which isn’t a change but it incorporates grades ten to twelve, and that’s the lab exposure in the high school,” said Devoll.

Next month as Devoll furthers his course name and description progress, he will be looking at more thematic English courses for the course catalog.

The current draft of the fiscal 2019 school budget includes another technology instructor as ORR explores offering technology courses that lean more towards engineering, which students have shown interest in taking.

“The challenge for this spring is really going to be promoting these courses in [technology],” said Devoll. “If we’re going to commit to an engineering teacher, we need to marshal the population.”

Which goes especially for the female population at ORR, Devoll said.

“As a school, we’ve had difficulty getting female students into our tech classes, so this year our librarian has started ‘Coding for Girls’ during our Bulldog Block,” said Devoll, which has been a success.

The committee approved Devoll’s course change requests, and he will return at the next meeting with further course changes and offerings for the committee to consider.

In other matters, the School Committee started its FY19 budget review, which Chairman Tina Rood referred ironically to as “the fun part of the season.”

Business Administrator Patrick Spencer said the current budget draft totals $18,630,000, which is up $537,000 or 2.9% from FY18.

Included is the funding for an additional full-time social worker at the high school to handle some of the caseload pertaining to the school’s social-emotional health initiative.

A line item to cover the costs of the school NEASC reaccreditation next year totals $20,745 – an expense that the school district would not see again for another ten years once the review process is completed.

Also included in the budget are an additional $47,000 for new technology devices at both the junior and high schools and another $5,000 to pay for further responsive classroom training for staff.

Spencer said he also anticipates a 9% increase in health insurance costs, which he already factored into the budget.

“This is just the beginning of our conversations,” said Superintendent Doug White. “There’s going to be plenty of opportunities for us to address our needs … so our students can be twenty-first century learners and be productive in this society.”

The committee also took a vote on its 20-Year Capital Plan that the three towns had asked the committee to formulate, voting to adopt the first four named projects as the top priorities: 1) the running track; 2) auditorium repairs/upgrades; 3) technology infrastructure project (including reconfiguring the phone system); and 4) the T.U.R.F. project.

The next meeting of the Old Rochester Regional School Committee is scheduled for March 7 at 6:30 pm in the junior high school media room.

Old Rochester Regional School Committee

By Jean Perry


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