Frederick County middle-school schedule to change next year -- Gazette.Net


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Middle-school students in Frederick County Public Schools will spend less class time on language arts and math and more on social studies and science, under a new schedule to take effect in the next school year.

The new schedule will replace the 90-minute classes that middle-school students now attend with seven 47-minute class periods.

The change was approved in a 5-2 vote by the Frederick County Board of Education Wednesday, with school board members April Miller and Brad Young opposed.

Miller, who suggested postponing a vote until Jan. 23, said she was concerned that parents, teachers and others did not get an adequate opportunity to offer feedback on the proposal and were not part of drafting it.

Gary Brennan, president of the Frederick County Teachers Association, said the school system did not consult teachers in designing the new schedule. Some parents also have said publicly they would have liked to be involved in the process.

“It just came out of nowhere and caught a lot of people off-guard,” Brennan said. “There is discussion now, but teachers feel it is after the fact.”

School board members adopted the new schedule with the understanding that they will receive an update on its implementation in four months.

Young said he would also have preferred to delay a vote to allow more feedback.

“I don’t think waiting an additional year and getting it right is going to kill us,” he said.

However, schools Superintendent Theresa Alban said it was necessary for the board to make a decision Wednesday so that the schedule change, expected to cost about $300,000, could be included in her proposed fiscal 2014 budget, which she is set to release on Jan. 17.

The funds likely would be directed toward hiring additional teachers, purchasing new materials, outfitting science classrooms and providing professional development for teachers.

In the coming weeks, the 14 county middle schools also will be developing next year’s schedules and assigning about 9,000 students to classes, making a delay difficult, Alban said.

The schedule change is part of the school system’s transition to the Common Core State Standards, a set of common educational standards adopted by states nationwide. County middle schools are working this year to transition to the common core, with full implementation expected in the 2013-14 school year.

Developed about a decade ago, the current 90-minute schedule gives students additional time to prepare in math and reading, which are the focus of standardized state exams.

School officials say the schedule change will better prepare students for exams under the common core curriculum, which will test students in language arts, math, social studies and science.

Currently, students take either social studies or science each semester. The new schedule allows middle schoolers to take shorter classes in all core subjects every day.

However, Miller said she was concerned that class sizes could increase as a result, possibly affecting already overcrowded schools.

“I don’t want to see science on a cart,” she said. “I want science in a classroom.”

Miller said she also was concerned that teachers who hold certifications in multiple disciplines will be assigned to teach subjects they may not have taught for years.

“There is no perfect schedule,” Alban said. “There will never be consensus.”

ecunningham@gazette.net