LOCS Board discusses new courses for middle schools and high school at Nov. 14 meeting

By Megan Kelley

Review Writer

The first board meeting since the Nov. 6 election had an aura of achievement. The bond had passed and the board and its audience were excited for the future.

One of the many things the board has been discussing has been the upcoming new courses and course proposals for the middle schools and high school.

Though these things were on the back burner during the election, now that Lake Orion Schools have secured the funding they asked for, the board can move forward with projects such as these.

Assistant Supt. of Teaching and Learning Heidi Mercer discussed these developments in the last board meeting on Oct. 24, telling the board that the finishing touches were just being added to the new course applications.

The presentations on Nov. 14 started with the three middle school principals taking the podium: Sarah Manzo from Oakview Middle School, Daniel Haas from Scripps Middle School and Randy Groya from Waldon Middle School.

Groya began with stating that the middle schools in Lake Orion have been evaluating their Character Ed. courses to ensure that they go along with their current bully prevention program and citizen component. The middle schools have also been working with a new “Standard Space Grading system” in order to provide better feedback to students.

The middle school administrators began discussing the replacement of current elective courses with more modern courses in January of this year.

“This has been a long time coming that we’ve wanted to update a lot of these elective courses, so we’re excited that we’re able to do that,” said Haas. “For the most part a lot of it is just updating it and getting it relevant to 2018, 2019, 2020 students and on. A lot of the courses that we’re updating have been around for a while.”

Discovering Solutions through Engineering and Technology (DSET) will be a newly added Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) component. This will replace World Cultures in the sixth grade elective rotation meaning each sixth grader will be required to do one semester of DSET, he said.

Seventh grade will also be adding a yearlong DSET course to replace the current technology course, spending 20 weeks on engineering and 20 weeks on robotics.

Civic Life will replace Nutrition and Wellness. It will continue to teach the important parts of Nutrition and Wellness but update it to have more relevant course material that will resonate more with the average middle schooler, Haas said.

The eighth grade drama course will be evolved into a forensics-type course that focuses mainly on public speaking.

Manzo outlined the next steps expecting to finalize the curriculum and names for the courses by January, finalize course descriptions and have them added to the school handbook by February and have the resources for the courses secured by June.

Mercer thanked the middle school principals for their last few years of hard work and initiative on these new courses and Standard Space Grading before opening the floor for the high school teachers to present their course proposals to the board.

Social Studies teacher Kirk Webber, filled in for Yearbook teacher Stephanie Orth, to speak on her behalf of course proposal “Yearbook Leadership.”

This course would be an advanced yearbook class for returning students that would be primarily for the yearbook editors. This course would allow the editors to look at pages and proofs outside of the regular yearbook class.

“They seem to get very overwhelmed. There’s a number of yearbook programs that will have an additional class like that,” said Webber, who had previously taught yearbook for 12 years. “This would help her, especially as she competes on the state and national level with a really good yearbook. I think that this class would be… it’s not going to be one that has a lot of students in it, but it’s one that they could fit in as they work their electives as juniors and seniors.”

Webber was also there to speak for his own proposed course, “AP Seminar.” As schools move toward expanding their advanced placement courses, Webber is looking to do something similar at Lake Orion.

“AP Seminar” would be specifically for AP students or students who are perusing AP courses who wish to “expand their academic offerings,” Webber said.

“They learn how to do research, inquiry and team building for an AP score where there’s a test but also a portfolio and a presentation… it’s all described through the College Board. It’s a pretty specific class,” Webber explained. “It aims to help them analyze and evaluate information and communicate it through an evidence-based procedure.”

This course could be available in two parts but students would be able to only take one part if they wished to do so.

“It would target the higher level of kid and expand and probably polish off our AP offerings,” Webber said.

Richard Messick discussed his proposal for “Intermediate Statistics.”

Currently, the high school requires Intro to Statistics and also teaches probability and statistics in Algebra 2.

Intro to Statistics essentially covers the first half of the school’s statistic textbook. The Intermediate Statistics course would teach the second half of the same textbook.

There is currently an AP Statistics class that covers that information but it is a three-term course. Messick explained that the Mathematics Department wants to create a course for students who wish to advance in statistics but don’t have room in their schedule to commit to a three-term class.

Messick concluded his proposal by adding that the class would not require any additional resources because the school already owns the textbooks.

“It’s not going to be something that hundreds of students sign up for, but I think it’s a good offering for a certain group of students who are maybe thinking about engineering or science or business as possible career fields. It would give them a little bit of a heads-up before they get to college,” Messick said.

David Whitaker was next with his proposal of an Advanced P.E. course. This course would be just as it sounds, an alternative to regular physical education.

Advanced P.E. would be more geared toward athletes or students who wish to go into fitness in the future, therefore the curriculum would be the same, but the expectations would be higher.

Whitaker explained the struggle some students go through when having to take P.E in high school.

“That would allow us to work with that group at a higher level but for those who are maybe less skilled or more intimidated, we could work with them in a separate class and in an environment to where it’s, ’Hey, we’re in this together and the idea behind this is we’re trying to create lifelong skills; that you enjoy doing this’,” he said.

Whitaker’s goal is to create a P.E. environment for all skill levels where students can have fun, learn and possibly come back and take P.E. electives in the future.

The only board comment throughout the proposals was from Trustee Steve Drakos, who brought up the possible negative outcome of the name “Advanced P.E.” He worried that it may cause a divide between students taking advanced and students taking the regular courses.

Whitaker explained that it isn’t meant to divide and that the advanced class would have higher expectations. However, he was willing to change the name if the board felt it necessary.

Jennifer Ohlrich delivered the final proposal of the night, the courses Cyber Security 1 and 2.

Mercer prefaced the presentation by stating that this course has been in the works for a while and thanked Ohlrich for all of the work and training she put into it.

Ohlrich began her presentation stating that Cyber Security is currently one of the fastest growing Information Technology fields.

This is a two-course program and after the first year it will be eligible to become a Current Technical Education Funded Program, which will bring in additional money for the course.

“Students will learn how to network, they will learn some programing, there’s an all inclusive package that’s available to us to use on this course and it also allows students to earn certifications when they’re finished so they are able to take those outside to the business world and on to college as well,” Ohlrich said.

The board was quick to praise the proposals before wrapping up the new course presentations and moving on.

The board is expected to vote on course proposals during their next board meeting on Nov. 28.