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School board mulls AHS course offerings

John Colson

The Aspen school board is looking at ways to offer more classes at Aspen High School as the board revamps graduation requirements in response to changes in college admissions rules.The topic came up at the board’s meeting Monday morning when Superintendent Diana Sirko briefed the board members about what other, similar schools around the state and country are doing about graduation requirements. The Colorado Commission on Higher Education, which governs four-year colleges and universities in the state, recently set new high school graduation requirements for students attending Colorado colleges. As a result, school boards around the state are determining if their requirements measure up.”I think our requirements … are appropriate,” Sirko said after the presentation.But she said the high school could better prepare students for life as citizens in a democratic republic by offering a civics class that could count toward social studies requirements.A student must have a total of 24 units of credit to graduate from Aspen High. Of that total, 10.25 units can be electives.Some on the board said the school’s list of course offerings might need modification.New board member Ernie Fyrwald said the school could either require or recommend more fine arts courses to broaden students’ overall learning. Fyrwald also said he was concerned about “students being pigeonholed into courses because that’s all there is.”During the wide-ranging discussion, Aspen High School Principal Charlie Anastas said the district’s past financial difficulties contributed to some course cutbacks.He said a new current-events class called modern world issues might wind up on the chopping block if the district wants to create a civics course.Anastas also noted that the International Baccalaureate program puts pressure on other course offerings because the district some time ago decided to fund the advanced studies programs “no matter what the cost is.”Anastas said many students take Colorado Mountain College classes for both electives and requirements, earning high school credit as well as college credit. Online courses are also available to Aspen High students, he said.Board President Laura Kornasiewicz suggested the school could survey students to determine if they would like a greater selection.Another area that drew concern is the Microsoft Office course offering, which Kornasiewicz termed “a little outdated.”Fyrwald also said there are not enough technology courses in the curriculum and similar schools offer a far greater range of computer-related courses.”I would have to believe that the future is going in that direction,” he said.But Sirko noted that “there’s technology across the curriculum [in various course contexts] so that you use it as a tool, not as an end.”The discussion about course offerings will continue during future board meetings, as the district works to come up with a course list and graduation requirements.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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