Mandarin Chinese will be a new course offered at Evanston Township High School next year if Board members approve a proposal to add it and seven other courses that administrators recommended to the District 202 School Board on Nov. 23.

Kathy Pino, World Languages department chair, said parent inquiries and interest going back about five or six years was part of the impetus for the recommendation, as were the growing impact of China on the world politically and economically, and an increase in Chinese language studies regionally and nationally.

A committee of parents, students, faculty and administrators was formed in 2008 to study the idea of offering the course, which would start with two or three sections of a 1-level Chinese class in 2010 and add another level each year to become a four-year program.

Students in middle school and high school were surveyed to determine interest, and Ms. Pino reported that several hundred students indicated that they might enroll in such a course and at least 60 said they would take the course either instead of their current world language selection or in addition to it.

Board Vice-President Jane Colleton asked if Ms. Pino anticipated any problems with recruiting a teacher for the course, as, she noted, an earlier attempt to teach Swahili at ETHS had been frustrated by the lack of a qualified instructor. Ms. Pino said that, on the contrary, she had already been contacted, unsolicited, by several highly qualified candidates.

In addition to the new courses, Dr. Laura Cooper, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, recommended nine revisions and one deletion.

Course additions or revisions fall into categories that correspond to school goals of facilitating access to advanced courses, well-being, literacy and numeracy. The Mandarin Chinese course is in a separate category called “updating the curriculum,” which also includes a new course in digital photography.

Several proposals for new or revised courses provide opportunities for students to prepare for Advanced Placement courses. Bridge to AP Chemistry, Bridge to AP Physics and AP Art Portfolio are all recommended summer school courses that “students … who are ‘stretching’ to take an AP course are encouraged to enroll in,” according to administrators.

In addition, administrators are recommending that the prerequisites for Photo 1, Sculpture, Ceramics 1 and AP Portfolio be loosened to “encourage students interested in the graphic arts to take advanced courses.” Previously 1 Art was required for all these courses; if approved, there will either be no prerequisite, or alternatives.

In order to “expand opportunities for advanced study in career and technical education” 1 Accounting will add an honors component and 2 Automotive Technology will expand to two periods and add an honors component, according to the recommendations. In addition, a course called Civil Engineering and Architecture will replace Architectural Drawing and will become the fifth course in the District’s pre-engineering program, Project Lead the Way.

Student well-being will be enhanced by another new course offered by the English/History Study Center, which will train students how to tutor other students in writing. This will “create a powerful new resource for our System of Supports,” Dr. Cooper said in proposing the course.

Board President Rachel Hayman asked if “high achieving students” might be reluctant to take the tutor training course because honors credit was not available and it might bring down their grade point average. Dr. Cooper said that that had been a consideration, but that students could take it pass/fail which would avoid the GPA problem, and in addition, she said, a course of this nature is “a real plus on college applications.”

And because the body is also part of well-being, the Healthy Lifestyles and Fitness course, which helps girls “who need to focus on building and applying knowledge skills in nutrition, fitness and overall wellness, will now be offered to freshmen and sophomores in addition to juniors and seniors, Dr. Cooper said. She told the RoundTable that the idea of offering the course to boys had been explored and was “not at all a closed topic”.

Students who enter high school “performing below grade level” have five course proposals to benefit them, Dr. Cooper said. As an example, Reading and Math in the Social Context is a summer school class designed to increase student reading and math proficiency by “engaging them with problems, texts and projects that connect to their lives and their social and academic identities,” she said. Other courses target Special Education students to help them have access to Algebra, Biology and Chemistry and to improve reading skills.

The Board will vote on the proposed course recommendations at its Dec. 14 meeting.