A committee studying ways the Alexandria School Board could reduce the curriculum of the city's only high school proposed a plan last night giving lowest priority to courses in advanced languages, intermediate music, advanced vocational education, specialized sciences and subjects that could be reclassified as extracurricular activities.
At a meeting attended by more than 90 parents, teachers and school officials, Robert Hanley, head of the curriculum review committee and principal of T.C. Williams High School, said the plan could be used as a guide if the board, under pressure to limit spending, decides to trim courses for the next school year.
The plan is to be presented to School Superintendent Robert W. Peebles, who is expected to make recommendations to the board in January.
The plan places the more than 200 courses offered at the school in three categories: essential, recommended and specialized.
The first category includes courses required by state or local mandate, including English, social studies, basic mathematics and science, and beginning-level courses in languages, business and physical education.
Courses in the second category, those required for college admission or entering a trade, include most mid-level course electives and advanced courses in mathematics and science.
Those courses listed as specialized, given the lowest priority, include such science courses as medical chemistry and oceanography, and all courses in Russian.
The plan recommends that a course in cheerleading be taken out of the curriculum and added to the school's list of extracurricular activities, and left open the possibility of doing the same with school yearbook and newspaper courses.
Many parents in the audience protested any course cutbacks and complained of the low priority given to specialized courses that they said distinguish T.C. Williams from other public high schools.
Madelaine Anderson said that cutbacks in those areas would have a "ripple effect." Because of the wide range of courses, Anderson said, "people come to this community, people buy houses in this community."
Hanley said that the committee is looking for alternative ways of teaching some specialized courses, such as offering them during alternate semesters or years. Hanley said that the priorities set were based in part on enrollment figures.
Some in the audience said that parents may have to agree to tax increases in order to prevent any curriculum cutbacks.
"The bottom line is what can the community afford, what are they willing to pay for," Hanley said.