On February 25th, Passaic Valley publicly announced its most extensive additions to its course offerings in school history. This expansion includes completely new courses, dual enrollment, and updated curricula. The updated Program of Studies looks to build on PV’s already impressive and innovative opportunities offered to students.
In a press release sent to stakeholders, Superintendent Dr. Cardillo explained the philosophy of the new offerings: “PV has a laser-like focus in meeting and serving the expectations of our parents,” she said. “Working together with the PV School Board, our tri-county middles schools, and various community leaders, we are creating a strong and ambitious strategic vision for PV’s future.”
The additions and changes will officially launch in the 2019-2020 school year and are the culmination of months of planning and professional development by staff and administration.
Several completely new courses have been added to various curricula. The Foreign Language department added three new honors classes: French II Honors, Spanish II Honors, and Italian II Honors. In addition, numerous innovative half-year electives were added to give students the opportunity to explore several unique content areas. These electives include Gender Studies, Forensic Science, Allied Health Science, Game Programming, 3D Design, Cartooning, and Sports Science. An additional elective, Cinema and Culture, will be offered in the 2020-2021 school year.
Mrs. Tara Torres, Director of Student Personnel Services, and other administrators looked at previously collected data to outline three areas of focus when developing these new courses: Criminal Justice, Healthcare, and Computer Science. “Our goal for next year was to create balance in our Program of Studies. At PV we have students from all different backgrounds, each with his/her own interests and plans for the future,” Torres explained. “As a result, we wanted to offer opportunities that would intrigue students and make them feel prepared for their next steps in life.”
Another major focus in revamping course selection was to team with local colleges and universities to offer opportunities for students to earn college credits while still in high school. Passaic Valley is currently partnering with Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU), Kean University, Montclair State University (MSU), and Passaic County Community College (PCCC). The new dual enrollment classes include the aforementioned Forensic Science elective with PCCC, Introduction to Communication Arts & Media with MSU, and an Engineering elective whose name and partnership has yet to be announced.
These new classes join several dual enrollment courses PV already provides. “With the separation of AP, there are now 31 opportunities for students to earn college credits while at PV,” said Torres.
Additionally, Passaic Valley and William Paterson University (WPU) partnered to offer students the opportunity to jump-start their careers. Three classes, Law Enforcement Prep, Computer Coding (which grants certification in Python), and Patient Care Technician, will be taught at PV through WPU.
As technically college courses, students enrolled must pay a tuition for the course. However, the price is significantly lower when compared to tuition at the college level. “Upon successful completion of these rigorous courses, students will be able to enter into the workforce and apply for entry level positions,” said Torres. More information on these courses can be found on pages 13 and 14 of the Program of Studies.
So far, students have been incredibly supportive and enthusiastic in response to the new offerings. Of particular interest is the focus on STEM and students’ futures beyond high school that is not tied to the AP track. “Our upperclassmen are excited about the new science courses for next year. Many students like to take a fourth science for the purpose of college admissions, but do not want to enroll in an AP level course and may not be interested in Environmental Science,” explained Torres. “They appreciate the expansion of the department, especially since the new courses are directly related careers they are considering. We have also seen demonstrated interest in the William Paterson courses. The idea of taking these post-secondary courses before graduation, at a discounted rate, is appealing to both students and parents.”
Of course, not every change is an addition. Passaic Valley has also revised all Visual/Performing Arts courses. Curricula have been changed and updated, course titles have been changed to reflect these changes, and prerequisites have been edited to allow more flexibility and access to these courses. As a former Music teacher, Mrs. Torres is excited for the revisions. “The rebranding of the courses puts a fresh face on the department and enables students to see these courses in a new light,” she said. “The lifting of some of the prerequisites allows students to mix and match their interests and to experiment within the arts, possibly finding an outlet for self-expression or, at the very least, an appreciation of the subject.”