AP Environmental Science evaluated, Civics no longer required
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From offering reduced scheduling to underclassmen to new career pathways, many things are changing in USD 497 high schools. Starting next year, civics will not be a required course for freshmen; it will be an elective instead. One thing that is not changing, however, is the availability of the AP Environmental Science course at both Lawrence High School and Free State.
In January, the school district announced that APES would no longer be offered at LHS and LHS students who wanted to take it must commute to Free State. This decision was later reversed, but Patrick Kelly, director of the College and Career Center, stated that APES was originally going to be cut at one school because there was not enough enrollment.
Kelly initially told the board the course would move because the facilities at Free State are more suitable to the course.
“The facilities make a big difference,” Kelly said. “…look at how much ground there is and environment there is here at Free State compared with LHS.”
Another factor cited was lack of student interest in taking the class. Julie Schwarting, the APES teacher at Free State, however, said that enrollment in the course at LHS is consistently around 25-30 students, enough for at least one full class.
There are some classes that are offered at LHS and not at Free State, such as Carpentry and Automotive Services. Kelly said that APES not being offered at LHS is similar to Automotive Services not being offered at Free State.
“We can argue that AP Environmental Science, ‘well I should be able to take that at my own high school, I shouldn’t have to travel,’” said Kelly. “And I would ask, ‘Why do we tell the automotive student that they have to travel? Why are their goals and dreams any different than AP Environmental Science students?’”
After the decision to move all APES classes to Free State, students, parents and staff spoke out against the decision.The board decided to continue offering the course as long as there is enough enrollment. It is unclear how many students are needed for it to constitute as enough for a class, but right now the course will be offered at both high schools.
While APES was at risk at leaving LHS, it has already been decided that Civics will no longer be a required course for freshmen at both LHS and Free State.
Cathryn Monroe and Laura Henderson, the current Civics teachers at Free State, are excited for the new changes coming to the course.
“There are many times that courses need to be looked at to see if they’re serving the need that they were originally designed for,” said Cathryn Monroe. “…[T]he reason that civics was originally designed is no longer a need. So for me not a big deal that it’s not [required anymore]”
Students who have taken Civics like freshman Matthew Rule, learned valuable skills from the class. Rule enjoys looking at things from historical perspective and learning from the actions of people in the past.
“I like civics probably because we learn about the mistakes of previous people or groups of people and what’s worked in the past and where we’ve come from,” Rule said.
Civics will remain in place as the course transitions to becoming an elective, but Monroe and Henderson also plan to review the curriculum and redesigning aspects of the course.
“… we’ll be able to do a curricular review process on it and see how to better meet the needs of what our student populations needs now through civics…” said Monroe.
Unlike the initial decision to cut APES, the decision to make Civics an elective has been met with little upset.
“With it becoming an elective…we have a lot more flexibility in what we teach with it,” said Henderson.