BOE Reviews Wide Array of New WHS Courses: Accelerated Math, Marine Biology, Black & Latino Studies, Wellness and More

At Thursday night’s Nov. 18 meeting, Wilton’s Board and Education (BOE) heard about seven new courses proposed for Wilton High School (WHS).

The courses cover a wide array of subject areas, including two new accelerated math courses; a third level of American sign language; marine biology; a social-emotional wellness seminar; exercise science and sports medicine; and Black and Latino studies.

The meeting was recorded and can be viewed on the BOE website under BoardDocs.

The new courses are the result of long efforts by the BOE’s Teaching and Learning Committee. Board member Jennifer Lalor, who serves on that committee, wants the public to understand the process of developing new courses is lengthy.

“It’s an awfully long process,” Lalor said, in terms of “how long it takes to go from having an idea for a course to actually coming in front of the entire Board [with it].”

Before WHS Principal Dr. Bob O’Donnell introduced various staff members to discuss the specific courses, he began by saying, “We’re very proud of these courses and the work that went into them, the planning and the expertise of this outstanding group of educators.”

  • Algebra I-Geometry Accelerated: a ninth-grade, accelerated course that combines algebra I and geometry. Dr. Trudy Denton explained the course is designed for students currently in eighth-grade pre-algebra, showing mastery of Algebra I concepts and able to move at an accelerated pace. The course is the result of a need identified in the math curriculum review in 2018.
  • Geometry-Algebra II-PreCalculus 3 Accelerated: a two-year course, for students currently enrolled in Algebra I in eighth grade. Also an outgrowth of the 2018 math curriculum review, this course is intended to provide an additional acceleration opportunity for students that hasn’t previously been available.
  • American Sign Language III: a higher-level course offering for the ASL program already in place at the high school. ASL teacher Amy Broderick said the relatively new program was “thriving” and cited a poll of students currently in the ASL II course who nearly all desired to continue in a course at the next level.
  • Marine Biology: a one-semester, elective course open to juniors and seniors. It was described as “filling a gap” in the curriculum, focusing on the physical and biological aspects of the ocean, with a hands-on, project-based approach, utilizing several local resources including Long Island Sound, the Norwalk River and the Norwalk Maritime Center.
  • DBT/Wellness Seminar: a course to help students develop social-emotional skills based on principles of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), including mindfulness, emotion regulation, interpersonal skills and distress tolerance, in order to be more successful in their academic work and in their broader lives. Kim Zemo, the district’s Safe School Climate coordinator, emphasized that the course is designed to teach skills and is not considered therapy.
  • Introduction to Exercise Science and Sports Medicine: the first elective course offered by the Health and Physical Education Department. Dr. Kelly Holtz explained the course was driven by significant student interest in an introductory class that would prepare them for post-secondary courses in exercise science, sports medicine, nutrition or other related health fields.
  • Black and Latino Studies: a full-year elective, with a semester each on Black and Latino studies. The program has already been piloted in some districts, after the state Department of Education began requiring schools to offer a course in Black and Latino studies in 2019. The course will run only if enough students enroll. The course is expected to be open to seniors, with U.S. History as a prerequisite.

Other BOE News

  • Board members received a copy of the 2021-22 Wilton Public Schools Class Size and Staffing Report, which can be found on the Wilton Public Schools website. No discussion of the report took place at the meeting; the report is intended to serve as a reference for board members, with information that includes:
      • Recent historical and current student population figures, going back to the 2019-2020 school year
      • Detailed listing of administrative, teaching and support positions
      • Class sizes, by subject
  • The board also approved a revision to Policy and Regulation 5118, which pertains to attendance by non-resident students. The minor revision gives the district some discretion in the enrollment of students whose families are in the process of moving into Wilton. The entire regulation can be found on the BOE website.
  • A discussion of Policy 5141.3, which pertains to student health assessments and immunizations, was on the agenda, but postponed at the request of board member Jennifer Lalor, who indicated she had not yet reviewed the materials.

The next regular BOE meeting is Thursday, Dec. 2.

Correction: this story has been edited with a correction about the Black and Latino Studies course. It has been piloted in some districts across Connecticut but was not piloted in Wilton, as originally reported. 

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