A special School Committee meeting was held last night for administrators to present a recommended 2014-2015 Middle School schedule and 2014-2015 High School Program of Studies (along with a couple other items of note). Please check out the IQM2 portion of the School Committee section on the melroseschools website for full presentations and back-up material but here are some of my take-aways:
* E-Camp: As promised by Supt. Taymore, the elementary schools have a much more consistent and aligned approach to 5th grade environmental camp this year, with all students attending in early April (prior to the Science MCAS), similar curricula, and appropriate opportunities for science immersion in the school if a student chooses not to attend. There are still some kinks to work out, but much progress has been made.
* A Statement of Interest will be submitted to the Mass. School Building Authority (MSBA) to request approval and 50% funding to replace all windows at the Hoover School (since the windows are original to the 1965 building, are single pane, and are covered with metal cages making egress very difficult in case of emergency). Rough estimates show that the city might incur a $250K expense and the project, if approved, could be complete 18 months after approval.
* The Middle School will be taking on a new schedule that increases time-on-learning, allows alignment to the HS schedule so students who need more challenge could take a course there, adds two minutes to the lunch period, removes school assemblies from core class time, aligns to the School Improvement Plan, allows for more in-depth and rigorous coursework, incurs fewer transitions from class-to-class during the school day, and allows for vertical teaming (i.e. teachers from different grades in the same subject can meet for planning purposes). Latin can now be offered to interested 8th grade students at MHS. Homework might change by having fewer assignments that have greater depth (requiring the same amount of homework time but in a more meaningful way).
* The High School plans to offer a number of new courses, like Intro to Piano and Guitar, Public Speaking, AP Bio and AP European History (both for freshman), Forensics, and a wide variety of others. (As a rule, electives are offered but enrollment determines whether they are implemented.) Several new pathways are offered too, which allow students who have a specific interest to pursue greater depth of study in that topic. Presenters highlighted the fact that we as a school community often need to push students a little past their comfort zone, so when recognizing excellence in a subject area, students should receive encouragement and support to pursue a course with a higher level of challenge. By the same token, we as parents need to be thoughtful about using override authority in courses where our children may truly struggle. The key is finding the best placement for each student in each subject area so that when they graduate, they are college and/or career-ready.
Special thanks to our MHS Student Representatives who provided candid and thoughtful insight about both the Middle School and High School proposals. In addition, warm thanks to the administrators and teachers who spent a great deal of time researching, surveying staff and students, and grappling with the opportunities and challenges of providing high-quality scheduling in the interest of supporting students. Please contact the building principal if you have questions about any of the information presented, and as always, thanks for your commitment to our wonderful school community!
Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.