EAST ROCKHILL — Starting with next year’s ninth graders, who will be in the class of 2026, Pennridge High School graduates would all have to take and pass a personal finance course under a proposal discussed at the Feb. 7 Pennridge School Board Curriculum Committee meeting.
“This is one of the district goals in the current comprehensive plan,” Superintendent David Bolton said. “We developed some courses, but now we are making the recommendation that it be part of the requirements.”
The district already has a Financial Foundations course and a Personal Finance course and is proposing that a Personal Finance Honors course be added, Howard Vogel, the district’s K-12 mathematics supervisor, said.
“I think everybody should go through some sort of course like this,” board member Ronald Wurz said.
Board President and Curriculum Committee Chair Joan Cullen said it is relevant and exciting.
“It’s what parents are asking for,” she said. “You see it all the time out in the community — ‘Why don’t we teach students these kinds of things?’”
Board member Megan Banis-Clemens said she also heard from businesses and banks asking about personal finance courses.
“It’s mind boggling to them when they get kids who graduated and have no idea what they’re doing as far as school loans or mortgage or car loans or anything like that,” Banis-Clemens said, “and it’s so important to know how to be able to do these things in life.”
Board member Bob Cormack, Bucks County Economic Development Corporation’s executive director, said it is “paramount” that students understand the financial world and asked if, in light of the many people starting their own business, the courses include information on starting your own business and making business plans.
That wasn’t part of the courses currently, but could be added, Vogel said.
The school would like to add .5 personal finance credits to the graduation requirements and reduce the required health and physical education credits from the current two to 1.5, leaving the total at 24 credits, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Schools Kathleen Scheid said.
Under the plan, aquatics would no longer be a required course, she said.
“Every tenth grader has to take aquatics at the moment,” Scheid said. “We are recommending that we continue to have water safety and aquatics type courses, which our P.E. teachers have been working on, but not make it mandatory.”
Students and parents have asked that aquatics not be required, she said, with the reasons given including students feeling self-conscious in a bathing suit and being uncomfortable changing to go into the pool in the middle of the school day.
“It is a significant number of students who are asking please do not make this a requirement so we are asking to eliminate it as a requirement,” Scheid said.
Other recommendations include eliminating a double period lab for chemistry courses, with the reason given that students taking the double period class have difficulty scheduling in other classes during that time on the school days when the double period is not held. Under the plan, there would be a single period lab course instead of the double period.
During public comment, Pennridge High School chemistry teacher Sharon Parkes said she and other teachers are proud of the school’s chemistry program and the success of students.
“We believe removing the lab periods would be detrimental to our students acquisition of new skills and to be able to compete at the highest levels of college,” she said.
Current district graduation requirements are four credits in English; three credits in each of mathematics and science; three credits in social studies, plus one humanities elective must be in social studies; two credits in wellness, physical education or health; 0.5 credits in creative and performing arts electives; 1.5 credits in humanities electives; and seven credits in general electives.
The recommendation is to keep the English requirement at four credits; start a new seven-credit requirement in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) education, with the seven credits being three in science, three in math and one a choice of creative arts, technology or an additional math or science; four credits in social studies; 1.5 credits in wellness or physical education; and 7.5 electives including classes in creative arts, music, world language, business, health/physical education or other academic courses. The 0.5 required personal finance credits would be as an elective in either math or business.
Pennsylvania Department of Education sets the graduation requirements at 21 credits, three less than Pennridge’s 24-credit requirement.
The state requirements are four credits in English; three each in mathematics, science and social studies; two in arts or humanities; one in health and physical education and five electives in courses approved for graduation.
Banis-Clemens said she thinks the district should have the same requirements as the state, rather than the additional requirements, so students would be able to choose more of their courses.
“We dictate to kids what they take up through middle school. High school is when they are supposed to be able to choose what courses best fit their education and their path moving forward,” she said.
“I don’t think that we should be acting like big government and telling families and kids what’s best for them,” Banis-Clemens said. “We’re preparing them to be adults and they should be able to choose what courses best fit their paths.”
Students should have more flexibility in choosing their courses, she said.
Bolton said the state list is the minimum requirements for graduation.
“Our target is not the bare minimum that a student in the state of Pennsylvania can take,” he said.
Pennridge students graduate with an average of about 26 credits, he said.
“We do think that with some of the changes we’ve made, we’ve provided lots of extra flexibility. It’s not as flexible as it could be, I understand that in terms of what Mrs. Banis-Clemens would be advocating for,” Bolton said, “but we do think it has increased the flexibility for students to have lots more choices, especially as they get into their junior and senior years, to do what they think is best for them.”
“Please know that we’re coming from a place where we just want to expand opportunities for our students,” Scheid said. “Maybe there’s other ways to do it, but we came here tonight with some recommendations.”
The recommended changes will not be voted on by the full board in February, Bolton said. The next steps will be getting feedback and questions following the Curriculum Committee meeting, with more discussion to take place at the committee’s March meeting, he said.
In other matters at the Curriculum Committee
• Dual enrollment classes for Pennridge students with Bucks County Community College are currently available, but the high school students must take the classes at the neighboring BCCC Upper Bucks campus and fit the college courses into the high school schedule, Scheid said.
Students taking dual enrollment classes get both college and high school credit for the courses, giving the students a head start on college.
Dual enrollment plans are also being made with Gwynedd Mercy University, she said.
“With Gwynedd Mercy, the way their program works is students never leave Pennridge High School,” Scheid said.
The courses would be taught at Pennridge by Pennridge teachers, with Gwynedd Mercy approving the curriculum and instructor, she said.
Along with starting the Gwynedd Mercy dual enrollment program, Pennridge would like to continue having dual enrollment with Bucks County Community College, she said, possibly changing to have those classes also taught at the high school.
• College enrollment for future teachers is decreasing, Scheid said, calling that “alarming.”
“We would like to develop teachers here at Pennridge and have a future teachers pathway, so to speak,” she said.
The high school currently has a Future Teachers Club, she said. The district would like to set up more ways for students to get teaching experience with younger students, she said.
The Gwynedd Mercy dual enrollment classes could include foundation courses for students planning to become teachers, she said.