The school board unanimously voted to pass the Payson High School (PHS) course catalog, which includes calculus A and B, and music theory, along with required courses.
The board and PHS Principal Brian Mabb on April 14 also discussed charging for a zero-hour period in the future.
“You have included calculus A-B,” said board member Shirley Dye to Mabb, “Are we going to try and offer it and see how many students sign up?”
During the past school year, the school didn’t offer calculus because students decided to take the newly offered statistics class instead. Administration held firm to the “at least six students must take the class to make it financially feasible” rule. Fewer than six students wanted to take the class, so the school didn’t offer it. For some, that hurt their chances for getting into the university of their choice.
Mabb said calculus will still hinge on staffing models and student interest.
Board president Barbara Underwood said Gila Community College would be willing to offer calculus and Mabb agreed, although the college also won’t offer courses if not enough students sign up.
Dye then asked questions about offering a zero-hour class, which means some students could take seven classes.
“If they are taking more than six classes, typically it would allow us to charge more for the seventh hour,” Mabb said.
The state only provides funding for six periods a day. That means the district could charge parents if their children wanted to pack in an extra class.
This year the high school offered Academic Decathlon an hour before regular classes started. A federal Gear-Up Grant funded the class taught by Kristi Ford.
The purpose of the grant was to increase the graduation and college attendance rate. Academic Decathlon class gave students, who needed a more challenging curriculum to stay engaged in school, a chance to compete in a series of matches with other schools on the topic of World War I.
The students displayed an awe-inspiring knowledge of the history, politics, arts and science of that period. The district will apparently drop the Gear Up program incentives this year for lack of the federal grant money.
Joni deSzendeffy, director of technology, said for those students who wish to get ahead in school, a zero hour might be necessary now that the board voted to disband the Payson Virtual Academy, which gives students a chance to take online classes on a great variety of topics.
“Students were taking classes to get ahead and we were charging them for on-line classes,” she said.
Then Dye suggested grant money could fill the gap in funding, but high school students would need to qualify for free and reduced lunches.
Mabb said the high school needs 40 percent of its students to qualify for free and reduced lunches to get extra federal money for special programs.
“The last status (showed) we were at a 39.4 percent of high school students (qualifying for free and reduced lunches), he said. “If we had 40 percent, we could qualify for an experimental program to encourage healthy eating. No student would have to pay for breakfast or lunch.”
District-wide, some 70 percent of students have signed up for free-and-reduced lunches based on family income. However, at the high school, the signup rate is much lower.
Underwood said parents get confused when it comes to signing up for the free and reduced lunches.
“A lot of parents think that if they sign it (the free and reduced lunch paperwork) they are asking for it,” she said.
Mabb responded that there is a lot of confusion over the program. He said students do not have to eat lunch in the cafeteria if they qualify for free and reduced lunches.
Dye said if they do qualify, transactions are private. A student only types in a code at the lunch counter.
“No one knows what they are paying,” she said.