Three different departments from Holmen High School presented new course proposals at the Dec. 11 School Board Meeting for the board to mull over.

The math department’s appeal to introduce integrated math classes, the computer science staff’s suggestion to add an AP course, and the agriculture science department’s proposal to create an academy will all be considered by the board for approval in January.

The first proposal came from math teachers Heidi de la Rosa, Ken Schelper and Rick Stuart, who proposed two courses called Integrated Math 1 and 2.

According to de la Rosa, the integrated maths would be aimed at students not ready for the traditional algebra-geometry track, and the material covered in each would delve into the essential understandings students may have missed in middle school. Material in both of the integrated math courses would entail more hands-on and situational problem-solving than in traditional math classes.

“We’d like to serve students who are currently being underserved,” said de la Rosa about adding the integrated maths course.

Integrated Math 2 would have a similar structure to the current Algebra 2-4 course offered at the high school, and Integrated Math 1 would be a new, four-term class. Integrated Math 2 could potentially be a two-term class after a transition year, said de la Rosa.

Schelper explained while the current math options at Holmen are limited, the number of students failing algebra and geometry each year is significant. Fourteen students failed algebra last year, down from 67 the previous year — and more than 20 students have failed geometry each of the last four years.

More evidence of the need for integrated maths came from the number of students enrolling in online math courses at the high school, said de la Rosa, who said that 80 or more students have signed up for online math classes each of the last two years.

“There has to be something else offered,” said Schelper. “There’s just not enough time that we can spend with each student, and right now the only option is to rehash the same content.”

Schelper said that since the Algebra 2-4 class is intended for students who complete algebra and geometry successfully, the department is losing its chance to help at-risk students, as well as upperclassmen that need credit remediation.

“The problem for these students is that during middle school, stuff doesn’t necessarily lock in,” said Schelper of students not ready for the traditional high school math track. “So they lose some important pieces along the way, and maybe find a mental shortcut to get past it, or just push through it — but the foundation is gone by the time they get here. Instead of just piling more on top of a loose foundation, we want to spend time in these integrated courses to rebuild them.”

Math and computer science teacher Josh Toltzman along with Holmen’s Academic and Career Plan Counselor Tim Bakeberg presented the second new course proposal, for an AP Computer Science Principles course.

“Computer science is a very broad category,” said Toltzman, who said the AP Computer Science curriculum would include units on web design and robotics. “So we really want our intro course to be eye-opening to all the possibilities in computer science, and the AP course to go along those lines as well. Any student interested in the applications of computer science would really need to take the AP course to get into any kind of college level material.”

The final appeal for a new course was made by Roger King, who’s taught agriscience at the high school for over 30 years. King proposed that Holmen add an Agriculture Science Academy to expand the department’s course offerings.

“Needless to say, we’re on ground that a lot of districts haven’t been on before,” said King of Holmen’s agriculture science department. “So we’re really working at trying to bring programming that’s expressed as a need by a lot of the industry in the state, as well as our country.”

King added that Holmen schools are fortunate to have a thriving agriscience department, when most area schools have no program at all.

The agrology academy would be a two-year program preparing high school juniors and seniors for careers in the agriculture science industry, said King. Academy students would explore career opportunities in the field through job shadows and scientific experience in labs with guidance from area agriculture professionals.

Juniors in the academy would partake in one semester focused on planting and working in the greenhouse, and one animal focused semester. Completion of both semesters would translate into three credits from Western, and one high school science credit. Senior year material for academy students would comprise of inquiry based instruction determined by the students career goal.

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Houston County News reporter

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