Greenwich school board told students want advanced math, guitar classes: 'A really good problem to have'

GREENWICH — Greenwich students interested in music and math could soon have more options at the high school level. 

Officials are examining two proposals to add courses to Greenwich High School for the following school year. One would be an honors linear algebra class, while the other is an advanced guitar class to pair with the school's existing beginner guitar course.

During a recent meeting of the Greenwich Board of Education, Andrew Byrne, the mathematics program coordinator for the high school, said the idea to add the linear algebra course came from students desiring more math courses to take. 

"We're seeing more and more students who are running through our program at a very quick pace," Byrne said. "It's a really good problem to have."

He said if the class is approved, Greenwich would be the only community in Fairfield County to have a linear algebra class on the books. In his survey of the area, Byrne only found two schools that include the course in their formal curriculum: the Bronx High School of Science and Stuyvesant High School, both in New York City.

"We think this will be a wonderful opportunity to encourage our students to continue to grow and we're really excited," he said.

Byrne called the advanced class "the foundation for all STEM fields." To take the new class, students will have to first complete advanced calculus.

"The applications of linear algebra are varied and many, everything from economics to neuroscience to theories of relativity," he said.

Board members seemed mostly supportive of adding the class, which will cost the district roughly $2,000 to implement, mostly in textbook purchases. 

But member Michael-Joseph Mercanti-Anthony cautioned other board members about introducing more challenging courses, as they could negatively affect students' social and emotional growth, he said.

“Just because it's available for students doesn’t mean that it's healthy, when as soon as we create these paths that means we’re creating pressure for students to take them," he said. "We know the competition is real."

Member Cody Kittle said he loved taking linear algebra as a student and applauded the effort to bring it to Greenwich High.

"Linear algebra is a really, really amazing class just from the content standpoint," he said. "I would totally recommend this."

Also during the Thursday meeting, an additional guitar class was proposed by music teacher Jason Polise.

He currently teaches a guitar course meant for beginners. Over the years, Polise said, he's noticed a growing interest from students in continuing to learn the instrument.

"It's clear to me that our guitar program is growing and there's a need to offer a second level of guitar," he said.

He said most students who have taken the introductory guitar class would be interested in the second level. Polise gave some examples of what the new course would entail. He said students would learn songs by bands such as Green Day and Led Zeppelin, as well as funk and jazz.

"I think there could be as many as 40 students who want to take it next year," he said.