This past week at Old Rochester Regional High School, students have been forced to face the looming fact that the future is imminent and must be dealt with at some time or another. In fewer words, it’s time to pick next year’s classes.
Neon green cards with next year’s class options were handed out to all students, with the request that they think about what classes they wish to take next year and have their teachers initial their approval.
Every year, Old Rochester offers an array of different classes. In order for a class to run, a minimum of 15 students must sign up for the course.
“If I get 14 or under, it makes me think that I shouldn’t commit resources to that class and try to provide students with other options,” said Principal Michael Devoll.
In fact, some of the Advanced Placement (AP) courses are offered every other year in order to allow for a variety of classes while still allowing every grade to take the classes they want. This also ensures that the enrollment in those classes will be high enough to keep the class running.
“Some of our AP courses that have struggled with student enrollment, we run every other year,” Devoll said. “If they ran every year, like AP Chemistry for example, we would only have one pool of students to take the class. By running every other year, we can capture two different levels – junior and seniors.”
The goal of the Old Rochester staff is to ensure each student is placed in a class that will best fit his or her needs. Therefore, teachers are asked to sign course cards for the class that they feel students will be challenged enough to get the best education they can. But what happens if a student wishes to take a class of a higher level than what their teacher recommends? Devoll explained.
“If a student wants to override the recommendation, we schedule a meeting because we’re not going to say ‘no,’ but we’re just going to explain why the recommendation we made was for that course,” said Devoll. “For those override meetings, we’ll bring work samples and we’ll say ‘here’s some work that you’ve done and here’s some work for the level that you want,’ or we may ask the teacher to come and talk about strengths and weaknesses. I don’t want to be in the business of saying ‘no’; I want to be in the business of being transparent.” Devoll continued, “This is what we think is best. If you want to go for it, then go for it. We’ll support you, but we’ll also give you information as to what areas you need to brush up on or get stronger at.”
In order for a student to graduate, a minimum of 120 credits is required. In previous years, students would select their courses independently and without guidance; but now, students and their guidance counselors work together as a team to create the perfect schedule that will incorporate core classes with enjoyable electives to fill the holes in the credits.
“Creating your schedule with the guidance counselor helps develop that relationship, but also the counselor can say ‘you know what, you haven’t completed your art yet. Let’s pick an art elective,’” explained Devoll.
As for electives, those are selected by both availability of schedule and by seniority, due to the fact that seniors have fewer years to complete the credit requirements and to take their desired electives than underclassmen have.
There are, of course, schedule mishaps that sometimes can’t be avoided, and this forces students to make executive decisions about their education.
“Now [the students] may have some tough decision to make,” said Devoll. “For example, if their honors Latin class runs at the same time as an AP class, that’s difficult, especially because we only have eight blocks to work with.”
It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle, said Devoll, “So we do the best we can meeting not the individual’s need, but meeting as many individuals’ needs as we can.”
For students, course selection time can be difficult, as it forces students to think about their focuses for the future and find a balance of school to life.
“One of the most stressful parts [of course selection] is trying to plan ahead for college,” said sophomore Alisha Mackin. “I’d like to take as many AP classes as I can, but also have time for life and a sport.”
In the upcoming weeks, classes will be buzzing with excitement, as well as anxiety, as students decide on the classes that will shape the way the next year of their lives will play out from an academic standpoint.
By Sienna Wurl