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 email@example.com