New Castle’s teens are going to have a few more choices and more say in their class schedules starting in the fall.

The school board approved recommendations this month from both the middle school and high school principals about expanding course offerings from sixth through 12th grade students.

“Students respond to choices better,” New Castle High School Principal Kirk Amman told the school board.

High school classes

The high school plans to offer one-semester classes to replace the traditional English 11/12 class.

“We’re not asking for any additional staffing in English. We’re looking at offering these if we can get enough students in these classes,” Amman said.

NCHS will now offer American Literature, Composition, Digital Media, Journalism, Novels, Technical Communication and Short Stories.

When describing the benefits of the Short Stories course, Amman gave the school board a short story of his own about a recent meeting between a high school counselor, a parent and their student who doesn’t like reading long novels.

“Some of these students do struggle with reading,” Amman said. “We said ‘you kind of like reading short stories.’ He kind of bought in (to the idea). The parent bought in, the student bought in, like ‘I want to take Short Stories. I can get into that, I don’t like super long books and things.’”

New Castle High School is also going to offer an elective English Lab for all four grade levels.

The high school can now also offer Weightlifting Level II for students who completed Intro to Weightlifting. Amman added that NCHS staff members have started utilizing the new weight room, too, during special “staff only” hours.

Amman also discuss some new career and technical education (CTE) courses in the high school Business Department that could qualify for reimbursement from the state.

“We want to offer as many classes as we can that are reimbursed. There’s really good CTE funding for first semester course, and we really want to take advantage of that. We’ve gotten better each year with that,” Amman said.

Superintendent Dr. Matt Shoemaker said New Castle schools have been working for several years to increase the number of students enrolled in those CTE courses. He praised Amman and School Counseling Director Karen Bimber for growing the course offerings.

“There are some courses that fully reimburse the teacher. We just weren’t there a couple years ago,” Shoemaker said. “It’s a good way for us to be financially responsible.”

Introduction to Computer Science for freshmen and sophomores are reimbursable, as are the new classes Education and Training: Special Topics –CAREER EXPLORATIONS, Graphic Design and Layout, and Computer Science II for juniors and seniors.

New Castle seniors will now also have the option to take a Personal Financial Responsibility class that will help these young adults “build skills in financial responsibility and decision making; analyze personal standards, needs, wants, and goals, identifying sources of income, savings, and investing; understand banking, budgeting, record-keeping and managing risk, insurance and credit card debt,” according to the course description.

Amman said the high school staff is looking at current teacher licenses to see who can cover what classes.

Middle school coursesThe high school has also been working closely with New Castle Middle School to develop course offerings that complement what’s going on there.

The two schools have shared one location this year while the NCMS building is being renovated to add, among other things, classrooms for the city’s sixth graders.

Middle School Principal Adam McDaniel presented several elective one-semester courses. Some of the courses will even allow eighth graders to earn credit toward their high school diplomas, he said.

“Each one of them was chosen because they are going to help lead us to – when we’re a 6-8 building – it’s going to kind of help lead in that direction as part of that transition,” he told the school board. “Offering these courses is going to help with preparing students and the school for that. It also prepares our eighth grade students for high school.”

McDaniel also emphasized that giving students choices and options in their education is important.

Creative Writing, Personal Finance and App Creators are classes that will be offered to all eighth grades for no credit. McDaniel said the App Creators course is a Project Lead the Way curriculum and NCMS already has a teacher certified to teach the course.

Middle school students could earn high school credits if they took the new Nutrition and Wellness course or Engineering Essentials. The engineering course also qualifies as reimbursable CTE course.

The New Castle School Board approved the recommend course offerings 5-0.