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District 428 approves DeKalb middle school schedule changes

DeKALB – DeKalb School District 428 board members approved changes to the district’s middle school schedule in a vote Tuesday.

With no discussion from the board, all but one present member voted in favor of the changes, which will rearrange the students’ daily schedule to include less elective time and make room for double periods of math. General music will be cut along with the equivalent of three full-time teaching positions, and the changes will go in effect for the 2014-15 school year.

“We’re behind where we probably need to be in acceptable standards for math teaching time, and this will bring us to where we need to be,” board President Tom Matya said. “... There’s a give and take here, but we only have so many hours, so many minutes in the day that we can teach, so we need to prioritize what items we are teaching.”

Nina Fontana was the only board member to vote against the changes. Board member Cohen Barnes wasn’t present.

“As a former teacher, I just had my own opinions on how the time could be used,” Fontana said. “I’d like to see the students be able to experience all of the rotation classes ... music, art, computers and the health program.”

Under the current schedule, middle school students have an encore period, which includes nine-week classes in art, computers, health and general music, and an exploratory period, which consists of full semesters of band and orchestra ensembles, choir and extra help in math or language arts.

The new schedule combines the encore and exploratory periods into a single elective period to make room for a double, 88-minute period of math. Art and computer classes will be lengthened to fill a full semester, and health classes will be folded into the physical education curriculum.

Before the vote, Ginny Omerod, the president of the DeKalb Classroom Teachers Association, and Carol Lee Duffin, the president of the DeKalb Music Boosters, pleaded with the board to vote against the changes.

“I believe the arts are very important,” Duffin said. “We’re cutting people off at middle school if we pass this new schedule as far as their opportunities and the things that they’re willing to try, and those opportunities are not likely to become more available as they get to high school, because the schedule there is very tight already.”

What it means

Starting with the 2014-15 school year, middle school students in DeKalb School District 428 will receive double the amount of math time but will have less access to elective courses. The equivalent of three full-time teaching positions will be cut.

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