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New courses coming to Pleasanton schools

Expanded focus on science and engineering

Pleasanton students can look forward to a host of new classes in the next school year.

On a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the Pleasanton School Board approved seven new classes, including three music courses and an expansion of science offerings at both high schools and in one middle school.

The science classes are the next phase of courses that began last year at Amador Valley High and this year at Foothill High. Amador will be adding a course called Digital Electronics, part of its engineering program, and Foothill will add Human Body Systems as the next course in its biomedical program and will begin an engineering program with Introduction to Engineering Design.

The expanded offerings are part of Project Lead the Way, a nationwide push to get more students involved in science and engineering as careers.

"This is really about increasing momentum," said Glen Sparks, coordinator of career technical education and apprenticeship programs. "Teachers have to go to summer training -- it's a commitment."

Adding new classes is a teacher-driven process, according to Jane Golden, director of curriculum, who said they talk to students to find out if there is interest and talk with colleagues before bringing an idea forward.

The move to emphasize science courses began two years ago at Amador, and Digital Electronics will be offered for students in the third year of their career path. Foothill began its biomedical program this year, and Human Body Systems will be the second in a similar path for students there.

Nearly all middle schools already have Gateway to Technology courses -- the first step in the push for technology. Hart Middle School will begin its technology courses in the 2014-15 school year, although the specifics have yet to be determined.

The effort will next move to elementary schools, with additional emphasis on science and math beginning in kindergarten.

AP Music Theory will come to Foothill in the 2014-15 school year, allowing students to get college credit. String Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra are being offered at Amador; Golden said those will ultimately replace other music classes at the school.

Village High School students will be offered a class in college and career readiness. While most students there are working to meet the requirements they need to graduate, some may be offered the opportunity to take classes at Amador or participate in what Golden described as a "virtual academy."

The additional courses are expected to cost the district more than $265,000.

Advance placement classes like the one to be offered at Foothill brought opposition from Sherie MacGregor, a parent and substitute teacher.

"I think there is a rush to push for APs that is stressing out the kids," MacGregor said. "We are missing the boat on offering more honors courses," instead of more advanced placement classes -- which offer college credit and are tougher than honors courses.

Also at its meeting Tuesday night, the board received an audit report for the 2012-13 school year that show ed the most favorable opinion the district can receive, and proposing only minor changes in how money is handled at some schools.

The board also agreed to reopen contract negotiations with CSEA. The district wants to discuss wages, hours, leaves of absence, transfers and promotions, and health benefits; the CSEA wants to discuss those items as well, along with grievance procedures and contracted services.

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