Year-round classes mulled for mid­dle school

The Community Connection - - NEWS - By Evan Brandt [email protected]­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

POTTSTOWN >> Still strug­gling with be­hav­ior prob­lems at the mid­dle school, the district is ask­ing the com­mu­nity whether it would sup­port the idea of year­round school there.

School board mem­ber Ray­mond Rose re­cently made a pre­sen­ta­tion to the board’s Com­mu­nity Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee about the idea of hav­ing the mid­dle school ed­u­cate stu­dents for 45 days, fol­lowed by 15 days off.

The sched­ule would be stag­gered so that all 975 stu­dents would only be in the mid­dle school build­ing at the same time for 15 out of 60 days, said Su­per­in­ten­dent Stephen Ro­driguez.

Since Pottstown closed Edge­wood El­e­men­tary School in 2014 and moved all fifth-graders into the mid­dle school on North Franklin Street, there have been on­go­ing be­hav­ior prob­lems, he said.

“We have four dif­fer­ent lev­els of pre-pu­bes­cence and pu­bes­cence in the same build­ing, so if you want to sep­a­rate them with­out open­ing a new build­ing, the an­swer is you have to look at cre­ative sched­ul­ing,” said Ro­driguez.

But be­fore the district takes too deep a dive into what the idea would look like in Pottstown, it wants to hear back from the com­mu­nity.

“The board is not OK with not ex­plor­ing ev­ery op­tion, but be­fore we go too far, we want to hear back from stake­hold­ers,” he said.

Emails were sent to staff, par­ents and the gen­eral pub­lic, ask­ing them all to fill out a sim­ple five-ques­tion sur­vey about whether the idea would work in Pottstown.

The on­line sur­vey fol­lows a short video in which Ro­driguez says the district wants to know what kind of im­pacts such a change would have on fam­ily life.

He said the up­sides of the changed sched­ule in­volve fewer stu­dents in the mid­dle school build­ing, less of the “sum­mer learn­ing loss” that typ­i­cally oc­curs dur­ing July and Au­gust and the po­ten­tial to be less ex­pen­sive than open­ing Edge­wood.

Down­sides in­clude a neg­a­tive im­pact on sports and other ac­tiv­i­ties, im­pact on fam­ily sum­mer va­ca­tion plans and “sib­lings with dif­fer­ent sched­ules.”

Ro­driguez said any­thing that might pre­vent “sum­mer learn­ing loss” would most ben­e­fit the fifth grade, where Pottstown’s scores — and those of other dis­tricts around the state — tend to slump the most.

“Fifth grade is where we strug­gle the most and go low­est on scores, and then they start to climb in higher grades and mostly re­cover by high school,” Ro­driguez said.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to the re­search Rose did, he found “the data is in­con­clu­sive.”

“In do­ing re­search for pos­si­ble so­lu­tions for the mid­dle school, I came up with the year-round school­ing and the mul­ti­track so­lu­tions that some school dis­tricts have em­ployed,” Rose wrote in an email to Dig­i­tal First Me­dia.

Although ac­cord­ing to his pre­sen­ta­tion, “there are some find­ings that for low­in­come schools, year-round school­ing can lead to im­proved test scores, es­pe­cially in math.”

“As a school board di­rec­tor, I felt I needed to do my due dili­gence and present it to the board although it is a rad­i­cal idea,” Rose added.

As of July, only about 3,700 school dis­tricts in the coun­try have adopted some vari­a­tion of the year-round sched­ule, about 4 per­cent of school dis­tricts na­tion­wide, and most of them are in the western states.

Schools in Texas, Cal­i­for­nia and North Carolina have used this kind of “mul­ti­track sched­ul­ing” to re­duce is­sues of over-crowd­ing and max­i­mize use of fa­cil­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to Rose’s re­search.

Ro­driguez said many vari­ables will af­fect whether the district moves ahead with this iade, or re­turns to the de­bate about whether to re­open Edge­wood.

“We could find this is twice as ex­pen­sive as re­open­ing Edge­wood, or it could be half as much,” he said.

The district has openly con­sid­ered the idea of re­open­ing Edge­wood, but de­cided in Septem­ber that it would not at­tempt to do so in the 2019-2020 school year.

The de­ci­sion to close Edge­wood, the district’s new­est build­ing, and ren­o­vate the re­main­ing four el­e­men­tary schools was made in 2012 af­ter many years of pro­pos­als, counter pro­pos­als and in­de­ci­sion.

Cur­rently, the build­ing is rented out to two ten­ants — Head Start and Cot­tage 7, a pri­vate spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion school to which pub­lic schools send stu­dents in need of emo­tional sup­port ser­vices.

As for feed­back, some was al­ready show­ing up Wed­nes­day on the district’s Face­book page, where the link to the video and sur­vey are posted.

“I saw the video and I do not agree with the change spe­cially in sum­mer time,” posted Yanira M Mo­rales.

“I think its good the kids have more time off in the whole year. In­stead of sit­ting home in front the TV play­ing video games in the sum­mer,” posted Teresa Med­vetz.” They still have 30 days off in the sum­mer then more time in the win­ter.”

“It could be a good idea but they need to ad­dress the safety is­sues for stu­dents and staff be­fore they ad­dress loss of in­for­ma­tion over sum­mer break,” posted Krys­tal DiP­i­etro who has com­plained to the school board in March about bul­ly­ing and con­flicts at the mid­dle school.

IM­AGE FROM SCREEN SHOT

A Year-Round Sched­ule for Pottstown Mid­dle School

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