Students to See Several Changes in Courses for Next YearWednesday, December 23, 2009 By Julia Bisick
Classes available at Notre Dame Academy have changed numerous times since the school first opened. Courses are continuously being introduced because of increased interest or dropped out of the curriculum due to low interest. “After sign-ups we add up all the numbers and see who’s interested in what. If there’s not enough we don’t offer that course. If there’s enough interest, we open up a new class,” said Mrs. Beth Abler, college advisor, when asked how courses available for the next school year are decided upon. Many things are taken into account when the next year’s curriculum is being planned and finalized in time for Christmas. The School Improvement Team consists of Mr. John Ravizza, principal; Mrs. Jill Gerl-Zamzow, Student Services; Sr. Laura Zelten, Campus Minister; Mr. James Tobias-Becker, Learning Resources; and the chairs of each academic department, including Mrs. Brenda Brayko the IB coordinator. SIT, as the committee is called, decides on curriculum changes. This group must first approve any added or changed course. If the change in question is only minor, then an individual teacher or department can approve the change. In order to complete the master schedule in spring, students will begin signing up for next year’s classes in late January, starting with the incoming freshman class one week and current freshmen, sophomores, and juniors the next week. Counselors and staff in Student Services will be available for any student needing help or advice when choosing their courses online. “Mr. Neiswender is the know-all for online course selection,” said Mrs. Abler. Another useful tool for course selection is the Educational Guide, which Mr. John Ravizza calls the “Bible for courses.” Every student needing to select courses is given his own copy of next year’s Educational Guide in order to pick potential classes for next year. Several students in the past have experienced frustration or disappointment after receiving their schedules for next year. Danielle Brunette, a senior, commented that even though she signed up for Art Metals she had to take Drawing and Design because it was not offered this year. The main reason for the unavailability of courses is the number of students interested. “If you have four students enrolled [in a class], then if doesn’t make sense to run that class,” Mr. Ravizza said. Some students also feel that their elective choices are lacking compared to other schools. “I really don’t like the electives that we have. In public schools they offer a whole variety of things but you look at [NDA] and there’s not much. I think pretty much all of my electives were classes I didn’t want to take but there was nothing else available,” Rachel Denny, another senior, said. NDA students will have a few more choices to consider in course selection for next year with the introduction of a Russian language program along with several other changes to the curriculum. The addition of Russian to NDA’s curriculum was a two-year process before the School Improvement Team decided to introduce it to students for the 2010-2011 school year. The group first had to decide how adding Russian to the curriculum would impact the other World Language courses of French, Spanish and German, and also how it would affect the other departments. The group then considered other factors such as identifying the “need, curriculum, impact, finance, and whether a new teacher would be needed,” according to Mr. Ravizza. Another significant change to the next school year’s curriculum is the addition of an IB music class. While Notre Dame’s International Baccalaureate courses are fairly new, the majority of newly added classes are a result of students’ interest in courses in IB. The addition of this advanced level music class was proposed in order to offer “more options for students who want to be in IB and music classes,” Ravizza said. This will also mean that students would no longer have to make a decision between participating in band and chorus or IB. Along with the addition of Russian and IB music courses, Notre Dame will also be dropping Honors Senior English as a course. This was a decision of the English Department due to the availability of College Credit, IB English and Senior English courses. Much of the curriculum in these courses overlap. Another example of a previously dropped class in the school curriculum was the option for students to take Latin language courses. Another change in next year’s curriculum, although minor to the addition or subtraction of a class, is changing accounting from a year-long class to a semester class. According to Mr. Ravizza, this would not only allow students to choose and participate in another elective, but would also let students wanting to take accounting for a full year do so by offering them Accounting II.