The sticking point: A matter of dollarsDistrict 833 has already determined that sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will attend middle school next fall.
By: Judy Spooner, Woodbury Bulletin
District 833 has already determined that sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will attend middle school next fall.
What remains to be decided by the school board is whether they will have eight-period days and a more personalized way of delivering education or continue with the current junior high system.
Board members, at a workshop, Oct. 9, were receptive to enthusiastic junior high teachers, specialists and principals who are eager to launch the new education model.
The sticking point, when the board meets Oct. 23, will be how to fund an additional $875,000 for one year to pay for it.
The additional cost was caused by a board decision two weeks ago to delay a change to six-period days in high schools.
Board members, by a one-vote margin, put off changing the current four-period day until 2010-2011 to give teachers more time to alter curriculums and more time for parents and students to adjust.
If the new six-period day had been approved, the savings would have funded the middle-school proposal.
Ironically, both, the new middle school eight-period model and High School Redesign Task Force recommendation for six periods were arrived at independently, said Tom Nelson, superintendent, at the workshop.
The additional expense of the recommended middle school model is because teachers will have the same preparation period, without students, that they have now.
They will also have a period to meet with other teachers about individual student progress and shared projects.
In the junior high system, which is a mini-high school model, students go from one classroom to the next.
Math teachers, for example, do not know how students are doing in their other classes.
In middle school, students are grouped in “houses” of up to 150 students. They all have the same teachers for math, science, language arts and social studies. Teachers get to know all the students on a more personal basis.
Students function better socially and academically when they have a personal relationship with at least one adult at school, according to national education research.
“I know a lot about their lives and they know a lot about mine,” said Kari Tennis, Oltman Junior High School teacher.
Junior high schools have electives but middle school students would take the same classes that include physical education, art, computers, business and music, for example.
Board members asked if teachers and staff members are ready to launch the new middle school plan.
“We’re chomping at the bit,” said Elise Block, Cottage Grove Junior High School principal. “After two years of transition team planning, we are so ready to go.”
There will be additional staff development on teacher workshop days and during the summer, according to the junior high principals.
Nelson said the options for funding include finding cuts in the budget to offset the expense for one year.
Funding could come from allocated money, but the district might need those funds in the future if the Legislature cuts education aid, Nelson said.
Money could come from the Internal Service Fund that pays for retirements and then made up the following year.
Most districts are not fully funded in their service account, as is District 833, according to Nelson.
Board member Jim Gelbmann said a solution could come from using a combination of the choices.