Prosser could get new AP courses

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 7, 2014 

PROSSER -- Two new Advanced Placement courses, as well as an overhauled U.S. history course, could be available to Prosser High School students in the next two years, but they won't come cheap.

It would cost more than $71,000 to begin offering AP biology and chemistry classes along with the improved history class, high school staff told the school board this week. Thousands of dollars more would be needed each year to maintain the science programs.

Principal Kevin Lusk said the new classes would serve a growing demand from students for challenging coursework that can better prepare them for their future.

"We have an opportunity to make our students even more college ready," he said.

Prosser High students can currently take U.S. history, Spanish, English literature, calculus and physics as AP courses. Students who score high enough on tests at the end of each course can earn college credit, reducing their future courseload.

Changes to the AP U.S. history test mean Prosser High's curriculum and textbooks need to change to better prepare students, Lusk said. That would cost about $4,300.

Lusk and biology teacher Aaron Sonnichsen said there's increased interest from students for less math-intensive science courses such as biology, which would prepare them to take the chemistry course. The plan is to offer the biology class in the fall, then chemistry in the fall of 2015.

Neither course has ever been offered at the school and would teach students valuable concepts and lab skills, the educators said. However, lab equipment and textbooks would cost $23,000 just to begin offering AP biology and $44,000 for AP chemistry.

"I don't know if we can offer the class if we don't fund it," Sonnichsen said.

The board didn't take action, though it is expected to revisit the issue at a future meeting. Superintendent Ray Tolcacher said he wants to act quickly and possibly begin getting materials together for the classes now.

"This is a priority. Every kid who goes through this will benefit," he said.

Also this week:

w The board approved the formation of an equestrian team at Prosser High.

The team will practice weekly. Competition includes events in showmanship, dressage, trail work and working rancher as well as roping, barrels and figure 8.

Several other high schools up and down the Mid-Columbia -- including Moses Lake, Columbia-Burbank and Walla Walla -- have also formed teams. Prosser will compete at three meets in Moses Lake in March and April.

w The board agreed to use Spokane-based Northwest Leadership to conduct the search for Assistant Superintendent Mary Snitily's replacement.

Snitily is retiring at the end of the school year after nine years in the district and 21 years in education.

w Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402;; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

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