Naperville District 203 might add advanced American Sign Language classes

The Naperville School District 203 Board of Education is considering offering an introduction to engineering course and advanced levels of American Sign Language to its high school students.

The board is also considering the administration’s recommendation to eliminate a dozen high school courses that have had low enrollment, lacked student interest or whose content overlapped other courses.

The course considerations are part of the district’s annual audit of its class offerings, Superintendent Dan Bridges said at Monday’s school board meeting.

The school board is expected to vote on its proposed changes at its April 15 meeting.

If approved, Naperville Central and Naperville North High School students will have a chance to take American Sign Language 3 in the 2024-2025 school year with American Sign Language 4 offered for the 2025-2026 school year.

According to the course descriptions, students will communicate in sign language with other students and their teachers, and the classes will focus on higher level vocabulary and grammar as well as important figures in the deaf community. Both campuses now offer two years of sign language and have had growth in their enrollment, district officials said.

Another new course to be implemented for the 2025-2026 school year would be an Introduction to Engineering Design in the Project Lead the Way Engineering Program, a nationally recognized curriculum, district officials said. The year-long course will help students explore engineering tools and apply math and science skills to solve problems, and it is expected to spur future courses to be offered that build upon those engineering principles.

The high school course audit process helps officials decide what courses should be offered based on Illinois learning standards, industry trends, student interest and post-secondary preparation, said Jayne Willard, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

“It’s about responding to the evolving needs of our students,” Willard said. “As we build new courses of study for students, we are shaping a future where every student’s potential is recognized, cultivated and empowered.”

Other courses are expected to be dropped in the 2025-2026 school year because they have declining enrollment or have courses with duplicative content, Willard said.

Among these include web page design, drafting and a music appreciation course.

Voices, a social studies course which features studies in diversity, equity and inclusion, is being dropped because its content overlapped with other United States history classes, said Steve Jeretina, assistant principal for curriculum at Naperville Central.

Honors biology is being dropped because students have the option to take Advanced Placement Biology that would give them college credit. This follows the science sequence at nearby school districts, and scores students receive on the AP exam have not been impacted by only offering AP Biology without honors biology as a prerequisite, Jeretina said.

Board member Donna Wandke said the courses the district offers has been helpful to students once they graduate.

“Time and time again what we hear when our students go off to college is how prepared they are,” Wandke said.

Willard said the district is continuing to look at new course proposals and may bring back additional options for the board to approve in the fall for the following school year.

Michelle Mullins is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

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