Two decades of site-based governance at the Verona Area School District’s two middle school have resulted in two different sets of syllabi, class descriptions, schedules and facility and equipment offerings.
Administrators have found the syllabi and class descriptions relatively easy to merge during the ongoing middle school alignment process, which is an ongoing effort to ensure equity among students at the different schools. The schedules and facility offerings, however, have proven to be far more complicated to rectify between the sites, principals told the school board Monday night, Dec. 16.
A proposed unified schedule detailed at a board committee meeting Dec. 6 drew scorn from teachers and parents, prompting administrators to rethink the entire concept. Some parents complained the schedule would cut elective programming like art and music, and teachers worried the plan would dilute their individual connections with students.
The two sites will be structurally different after Badger Ridge and Core Knowledge’s move to the current high school building next fall, particularly given the access BRMS will have to amenities such as a pool and track field.
Principals also pointed out that the sites have different equipment for their encore classes that don’t translate to the other building.
Administrators shelved the schedule plan after the Dec. 6 meeting, after all three middle school principals at Badger Ridge, Core Knowledge and Savanna Oaks stated they didn’t believe the new schedule was ideal, but rather believed it was required for middle school alignment.
District director of bilingual programs and instructional equity Laurie Burgos told the board that bringing the schedules closer together, especially where the number of minutes spent in core and encore classes are concerned, will still be “central to the conversation” with the continued work to align the middle schools.
One of the scheduling options the administration is exploring is creating flexibility with the core classes by having two of them scheduled back-to-back. Teachers would have the ability to use more time for one class at the expense of another’s minutes that day without affecting the rest of the schedule.
Burgos said this would help address the needs of BRMS Two-Way Immersion students and find a way to optimize science and social studies classes, which are taught in Spanish.
SOMS does not host a Two-Way Immersion program for students, Burgos explained, and using the SOMS schedule of having science and social studies be every other day would cut the amount of Spanish language education in half.
“It’s not as easy as saying, ‘Let’s just move,’ but allowing our teachers to have those core periods back-to-back, we hope that leads to some more integration and some more creativity in the schedule,” she said.
Workarounds for the different facilities and equipment at each site might include offering after school courses where all middle school students could have access to both schools after the school day, regardless of what site they’re enrolled at, Savanna Oaks principal Sandy Eskrich said.
“The two sites are different, and they will perhaps be even more structurally different over time,” she said. “We don’t want to not take advantage of some resources that we have on a campus … we want to intentionally think about how we provide an experience for all of our middle school kids that allows them to use all the resources the district has.”
Administrators had planned to update the CIA committee at its Dec. 19 meeting but decided Monday’s update to the board would suffice, superintendent Dean Gorrell told the board.
The plan to align the schedules for Badger Ridge and Savanna Oaks middle schools and Core Knowledge Charter School’s grades 6-8 is one result of a middle school study requested by the school board in 2015 as part of an effort to create more equity in student experiences leading to high school.
Originally, administrators had hoped to accomplish a full alignment by the time the new high school opens in fall 2020, as several schools will be moving into different facilities at that time. That would mean setting schedules by January 2020.
But after the Dec. 6 CIA meeting, school board members encouraged administrators to take more time getting the schedules aligned if needed.