This fall, Greenwood Community High School will add a class in response to the interest from students in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education.
But by the end of the first semester, administrators will need to make a decision on whether the class will be offered again the following year.
Every time officials consider adding or removing a class, that requires an in-depth evaluation of staff, classes and students and a review of teacher and student feedback about courses they want.
“New classes are driven by student interest and teachers saying they want to add a class. Can we meet that demand? We need to know by December,” Greenwood schools superintendent Kent DeKoninck said.
When students schedule their classes for the upcoming school year, guidance counselors use feedback from discussions with those students to find out what they want to learn about and which courses they’d like to see offered, officials said.
After realizing students had a lot of interest in engineering programs at Central Nine Career Center, Franklin Community High School added an engineering class, Franklin schools superintendent David Clendening said.
And more recently, high schools across Johnson County are adding classes that will prepare students who don’t plan to attend college for life after graduation, officials said.
“A lot of added classes are a response to what we are seeing from the business community, or what our students can do at the next level,” Clark-Pleasant schools superintendent Patrick Spray said.
The job market can lead to certain classes being added, officials said. For example, a few years ago Franklin added Japanese to its foreign languages because of the local Japanese-based manufacturers, including KYB and NSK, Clendening said.
But adding new classes can sometimes lead to classes being cut. Most often, if a class is added, it wasn’t done by hiring an additional teacher. When schools add a new class, it’s usually done at the expense of another course, officials said.
Administrators keep an updated list of teachers who plan to retire or leave. Sometimes schools decide to discontinue a class after a teacher moves on from the school district, officials said. But they also have to review class sizes and teachers’ schedules to determine who has the flexibility to take on another class, officials said.
Some classes aren’t added based on the newest or most popular subjects among students. Clark Pleasant schools is adding Spanish for eighth-graders next year, which the school district already should have had at the middle school, Spray said.
But most commonly, adding a class is largely due to the subject’s popularity among students, officials said. At Greenwood, students in advanced math classes wanted a class at the next level, so an advanced statistics class was added, Dekonink said.
If adding a class is as simple as shifting teachers, administrators can make that decision on their own. But shuffling teachers to add new classes isn’t always easy because they may not have the license or certification required to teach the class, Spray said. That could mean hiring a new teacher is the only way to add the new class, Spray said.
“Sometimes we may add a teacher and just take on the additional cost. If funds were unlimited, it would be easy. But you have to look at the trade-offs,” DeKoninck said. “It’s not my goal to take away from teachers, or cut a class, but if we do that, we have to decide. Is the class that important? And the ultimate thing is, can we staff it?”