Keeping Up with Carmel: Disappearing Classes

Dariush Khurram and Yichen Liu

When determining whether or not a class will be available for students to take in the following year, Joseph Schaller, who is the administrator of assessments and recognition, said that the primary factors are the number of students who signed up for the class and the space available to run the class. 

Regarding the factor of the number of students signing up for a class, Schaller said, “We look at how many people have actually requested the course. If we have a class that three people sign up for, we just can’t run that. That wouldn’t make sense for us to have a class of three kids.”

However, this largely only plays a role with new courses, he said. Most of the time, the determining factor is the amount of space available. For example, many students sign up for the introduction to construction class every year, but there is only room for five classes and a maximum of around 25 students in each class for safety reasons, meaning that only about 125 students in total can take the class each year. 

To help create additional space to run more classes, they have been considering adding more space to the school building, Schaller said.

 “There has discussions about adding on some areas to family and consumer science and into the engineering and technology area. If it were to happen, then it might allow us to run additional classes,” he said. 

When a student is unable to take a class, either due to lack of space or low numbers of student signups, Schaller said counseling looks for courses similar to it to offer to the student as alternatives.“The classes might not be the same, but there might be some similar interests in that,” Schaller said. The student may then choose an option or pick another class they are interested in. 

Administration and department heads also have discussions to determine the reasons behind declining trends when certain courses lose interest and do not meet the threshold of signups to continue on as a class.

After officially determining what classes will be offered, Schaller said the department chairs work with the assistant principals who oversee each department on assigning teachers to the classes. He clarified that low teacher numbers rarely ever play a role in whether or not a class is offered. “It would have to be a course that would be very specialized if that were the case, to where we wouldn’t have a teacher that has the license or something like that,” he said.

More often, the number of classes impacts the number of teachers. For instance, Schaller said that there have been fewer student course requests for next year compared to this year. “That just means that we will have probably a few fewer teachers. I don’t think it’ll be a huge impact, but probably have a few less,” he said. 

Changes are also occurring in terms of areas where classes are being dropped more than others. “There has been a shift because there are specific pathways that can be gained in certain departments, so those departments are seeing increased numbers,” Schaller said, specifically citing the areas of engineering and technology and family and consumer science.

The increased student signups can cause spacing issues and lead to more students being unable to take a class in those areas, however these changes are more heavily affecting incoming freshmen than other grade levels.

To summarize, Schaller said on the process, “Almost always, when we don’t offer something, it’s from a lack of students signing up or a lack of space to offer the class.”