Several new courses will be offered by the Rockville Centre School District in the coming year, giving students more options.
The Board of Education approved the additions to the curriculum at its meeting on Jan. 18, following a presentation about the classes being provided at the high school, middle school and elementary school levels.
“This year we’re doing things earlier so that we make sure that if things are approved, our high school and middle school can include these in parent communications as we begin to start scheduling for next year,” district Superintendent Matt Gaven explained. “So last year we were about three weeks later, and it didn’t jibe well with the process, so we’re trying to make sure that we’re doing things in context so that (Principal Patrick) Walsh can send out everything in one package, and we can make sure that we have strategic communication to our parents and to our students.”
After the meeting, Gaven said that beginning last week, students had already started choosing courses for next year.
The presentation highlighted nine new courses being offered at South Side High School in the 2024-25 school year. Among them are a stand-alone ELA class for seniors, an International Baccalaureate program on Digital Society, a combined Spanish 1 and 2 class for freshmen, a Unified Art class for both general education and core curriculum students, Art Explorations as a replacement for the existing Portfolio class, and electives in personal finance, Python, AP computer science and AI prompt engineering.
“It’s important to note that all of these course offerings are built with existing staff,” Gaven said. “So we don’t need to go and hire a new computer science teacher; we don’t need to hire a new Spanish teacher to do this.”
The high school will also expand its existing Theory of Knowledge class, currently a stand-alone one-year program, to create a two-year IB diploma course.
“Last year I was in the Theory of Knowledge class probably nine times with three different teachers,” Gaven said in the presentation, “and each time I was blown away by the level of thinking and the whole construct of the class, and recognize that it should be important for everyone.”
The new courses at South Side Middle School include a 10-week Art Explorations class for sixth-graders; a rotation of exploratory classes on careers, entrepreneurship and money management for seventh grade; and two electives for eighth-grade students, Inquiry in the AI Age and digital photography and video.
“Currently, no sixth-grade student gets an experience with art,” Gaven said. “So next year, we want to change that.”
He explained that except for the sixth-grade Art Exploration course, which is a requirement, all of the new courses are electives.
In the elementary schools, the district has already started work on adding knowledge-based units into the curriculum for students in third, fourth and fifth grades.
Gaven indicated that the district plans to continue this work next year, and that he was looking forward to the math committee’s presentations in June about recommendations for the curriculum at all grade levels.
“Thank you for constantly looking at our district’s course offerings for K through 12,” school board President Kelly Barry said, “and for looking at ways that we’re currently serving our students, and potentially how we might better serve our students.”
After the presentation, board members highlighted several classes that they wanted to see added next year. Chief among them was American Sign Language. Despite an interest among students to add ASL to the language curriculum, Gaven indicated that there is a shortage of certified instructors of second languages.
“A problem across Long Island and New York state right now is trying to find unique language instructors for different subjects,” Gaven said. “For example, a French teacher is really hard to find right now.”
Board Trustee Erica Messier asked if the district is still actively searching for an ASL teacher. She said that the course could serve as a language credit for students who would otherwise be considered language-exempt, and that it continues to feel like a priority for the district.
“I know at the beginning of this year we had two full sections of students who were signed up for ASL, because I think that’s what they wanted,” Messier said. “I think the deaf culture, while it’s probably highly important and informative, that’s not where the students are leaning.”
Gaven replied that the administration was still searching, but had yet to receive any responses from certified instructors.
“We post intermittently,” Gaven said. “We can certainly redo that again periodically over the next spring and into the summer to make sure. We’ve also reached out to different schools for the deaf to see if anyone there might want to come here. We have not found any takers right now that would be certified in ASL.”
Gaven said that he didn’t believe this was a dead end, and that a course on deaf culture could work as an alternative for students interested in learning ASL.
“We will offer one of the two,” he said. “If we were able to get an ASL teacher, that would be optimal. But if not, we have the deaf culture offering for next year.”
As part of the district’s strategy, parents will have the opportunity to discuss the different courses with their children and their guidance counselors to determine their schedule next year.