School administrators craft schedule to fit in some art classes.

Helena trustees discussed the implementation of the health curriculum and how it fits with middle school schedules at a board work session Tuesday evening.

Superintendent Bruce Messinger said after strong comments from board members and trustees about the lack of art in sixth grade — to accommodate the health curriculum approved last fall — a plan was reached incorporating both.

While that didn’t appease trustees Terry Beaver and Cherche Prezeau, the plan will move forward nonetheless.

Prezeau said she appreciates that the district has taken some steps to bring back some elective options for students, but has concerns the path isn’t long term or viable.

She said she believes a health curriculum is important, which is why she voted in favor of its approval, but says the current implementation creates less opportunity for students.

The biggest changes come for sixth and eighth grades.

Next year sixth-graders will be on a trimester system and get one-third of a year of art, technology and health education. This year, students in those classes get a full semester of art. Seventh-graders will take a semester of art and a semester of life skills which will integrate health topics. In eighth grade students will take a semester of technology and one of health education.

For the 25 to 30 percent of the student body who want a full year of Spanish, they will have to take it before or after school and be transported to one of the middle schools. Messinger said when and where it will be offered will depend on which time of day generates the most interest.

Trustee Libby Goldes said the health curriculum could not be implemented without some adjustment of the schedule.

When her son, now 29, was in middle school he only had six weeks of art, so it’s actually more than it used to be from her perspective.

Goldes said the district and the community have spent a lot of time on health, and trustees would be shortsighted not to move forward with all that’s been invested.

Board member Terry Beaver said administrators are trying to implement the curriculum much too rapidly. He said most people assumed health could be integrated into subjects and schedules already in place at all levels.

“It was never stated that it would be a standalone class,” he said.

Prezeau, who is the mother of an incoming sixth-grader, said in the past 12 years, middle school students have gone from having 17 electives to seven.

“We should step back and restructure what we are going to do at the middle school level,” Beaver said, adding that there are many options including eight periods or quarters. “I think we ought to look at some of the logistical possibilities …”

Beaver said running with a trimester schedule for sixth-graders separate from the rest of the building is jumping in head over heels and is setting the teachers, students and the program up for failure.

Both Prezeau and Beaver said the way to improve high school completion rates is to provide more opportunities and experiences for students, not decrease them.

“We have an obligation to provide opportunities to keep (students) coming through the doors,” Prezeau said, adding that for many students art is their favorite subject.

She recommended slowing down the implementation process, but no action in this direction was taken.

“I would hate for any of our kids to have lack of opportunity because we wouldn’t step back and be thoughtful about our implementation,” she said.

Chairman Michael O’Neil said he doesn’t see how any of the changes can be conveyed as a loss of opportunity for students.

“I believe in the ability of our teaching staff to create an engaging environment,” he said.

O’Neil said the health curriculum will prepare young people for life and it’s critical the district moves forward.

Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or alana.listoe@helenair.com

(8) comments

dolphind3
dolphind3

I love the pi of all of the board members.....Is that egg on their faces????

livingfree
livingfree

lovely...just lovely. Thank you again for misleading the public.
1. The curriculum took two years to make. (the public didn't know it was being made)
2. Revisions will be made and the public was not told who would be doing this. (the sole revisor was Messinger himself)
3. The curriculum would not jeopardize any other classes
4. (I may be making this up) I understood the curriculum would not be a stand alone class however in this article it says "Next year sixth-graders will be on a trimester system and get one-third of a year of art, technology and health education. This year, students in those classes get a full semester of art. Seventh-graders will take a semester of art and a semester of life skills which will integrate health topics. In eighth grade students will take a semester of technology and one of health education".

steeline
steeline

Makes me wonder about other class offerings like Civics, Government, Math, Reading, Writting, History etc. It seems like the Helena School Board is hung up on drawing pictures, speaking spanish and sex. What kind of job opportunities will be available in those fields? We have to get America Right, and soon.

sickofit
sickofit

so why not have the health education class held after normal school hours (or before)? That way the parents who do not want their children in these class can opt-out of them. Or give the parents and students a choice of either health class or music class. Those who want both could choose to eliminate the art/tech class.

I think we are making this a lot harder on ourselves then it has to be.

Sacaudos
Sacaudos

I think art should be an elective, since not all kids are good at art. Besides, they've been doing art projects in the other classes, like Social Studies, Math and English (for some reason). You can also integrate art into the technology course, since a lot of art is now done on computers.

Learning a foreign language shouldn't be an elective--it should be mandatory! This is the time when all children benefit from a foreign language (even earlier would be better). Fooreign languages help students with English because it emphasizes the different parts of speech, verb tenses, etc. This kind of instruction seem to be lacking in current English classes.

Students need to know a foreign language for travel, medical training, scientific research, etc., and they may also end up in a state where another language is the dominant one (such as Spanish in California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas). At least if students are introduced to a foreign language, they will have more understanding of different cultures and the way others think, which will help with future diplomacy as well as a general positive view of the world.

meadowlark
meadowlark

Since everyone is putting in their two-cents... :-)

I always thought kids should go to school longer like we did, start about 8 or so, and go until noon on the required subjects of critical thinking, reading, writing (including spelling -sheesh!), and arithmetic.

Afternoons should go until 4 or 4:30, with civics/government, geography, history, foreign language, life skills (including not only health/PE but financial literacy!) in the afternoons on MWF.

The afternoons of T-Th should be dedicated to whatever the kid is gifted at: sports, art, extra math, art, music, political skills, medical interests, mechanics, inventing, etc. Let the kids explore the different subjects if they want, but it is a real shame if we have the next Joe Namath or Pablo Picasso and they couldn't go as far as they might, because their parents don't have extra money or they are stuck in a one-size-fits-all curriculum. Sad situation for our nation.

Yeah, yeah, I know it's just an impractical dream

Helenaol
Helenaol

I recall when Trevor WILKERSON, TRUSTEE, made a motion to slow down the process, there was NO second, the motion didnt even make it on the table.

dolphind3
dolphind3

Where are all of the comments from the people that supported the curriculum? This has turned into the joke we all knew it would

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