Damico reassures unsettled future Accelerated Science teachers

Damico reassures unsettled future Accelerated Science teachers

By: Kaya Leitner ’19

Accelerated Science is a new course designed to compact three years of curriculum into a two-year science course. Eight sections of the pilot course are anticipated to run for this upcoming school year, and freshman demonstrated great interest in the newly pitched Accelerated Science course.

The class’ curriculum addresses elements of chemistry, biology and physics. However, the course’s creation and development didn’t follow the established course creation guidelines; it fast-tracked the process to ensure curriculum writing over the summer. Principal James D’Amico expressed his shock in the course’s popularity.

“Accelerated Science came about a little differently, in part because the landscape of science is shifting in the state of Connecticut and in the country,” D’Amico said.  “I was so surprised that so many kids coming into Staples wanted to try this thing that they know we hadn’t done before.”

Michael Aitkenhead, a science teacher, had originally pitched the idea of the new course, but as the course recommendation picked up interest, staff assignments began to rearrange. With a new course comes the need for forming lessons, curriculum and course ideas. The process has been a complicated one, generating some discomfort among science staff. Izzy Cardello ’19 said she could feel the tension in the science department.

“From what I have seen as a student,” Cardello said, “the tension in the department is palpable. I think teachers are frustrated because they aren’t able to teach the courses they love or feel like they are assigned to a course they are uncomfortable with or feel unprepared for.”

When science teachers were approached for a quote they wished to remain off the record. However, in D’Amico’s opinion,  the discomfort in the department stems from the fear of change.

“I think change, in general, feels uncomfortable. I mean this is a pilot, this is a course that we have never offered anything like, and a lot of times you look for, well,  are other districts doing that? They’re not doing it. So I think there is a little bit of uncertainty”

Although final touches on staffing decisions have not been made, D’Amico expresses his confidence that the science department will succeed with the aid of a host of resources, including a potential duty-free schedule.

“We are going to provide them with lots of resources, extra summer curriculum writing time, I think,” D’Amico said.  “Dr.Palmer talked about allowing those teachers to have a duty free schedule for next year so that instead of spending time doing library duty, or cafeteria duty, they have even more time to prepare for class and meet with students.”

Westport Superintendent Dr. Colleen Palmer also expressed her confidence in the science department’s ability to take on the course this upcoming school year.

“We are excited about this opportunity to have this approach of integrated science to offer our students within a more hands-on, self-discovery approach,” Palmer said.  “Naturally, as a new course, there are still areas of the curriculum to be finalized, but under the leadership of Mr. Scheetz, the science department chair, I am confident we will be ready to welcome our freshmen who elected to take this course in the fall to an engaging, rigorous learning experience.”