District 46 expands Spanish program, adopts trimester schedule

PRAIRIE GROVE – An expanded Spanish language program and a trimester schedule will be implemented this coming school year in District 46, the principal said.

The reworked schedule has been in the works for months as staff adapt to declining enrollment numbers and new Common Core standards, said Principal Vic Wight, who heads both the junior high and elementary schools.

The master schedule faced many changes as the administration accommodated feedback from staff, parents and the school board, including deciding to implement the expanded Spanish program immediately instead of phasing it in, he said.

Only eighth-graders had been taking Spanish, but next year, it also will be offered to sixth- and seventh-graders.

The first year will keep staffing levels at pretty much the levels as the 2012-13 school year, with some positions reworked, Wight said. Then, for the 2014-15 school year – depending on how the implementation goes – the plan is to reduce staff by two positions.

Four teachers retired this year, and their replacements were hired with one-year contracts.

One of the reworked positions came with the elimination of a dedicated computer class, Wight said.

Instead, that full-time teaching position will serve as a "technology integrationist," who will go to different classrooms to help teachers incorporate technology into their lessons.

"Kids know this stuff better than we do," said Wight, so staff decided to switch the focus away from basic skills such as typing.

A full-time teaching position that had time split between working as a literacy coach and teaching eighth-grade Spanish now will focus on the literacy coach aspect, working on reading strategies with students and developing smaller reading groups.

While the district had toyed with a science exploratory class for the junior high – going so far as buying the curriculum and materials – it opted not to based on staff and board concerns that it would take time away from regular science classes.

The elements didn't tie in well to the district's current curriculum, and while some of the materials will be used in some of the classes, more of it may fit in further down the line as details of the state's Next Generation science standards are released.

The exploratory class would have been more hands-on as the proposed standards encourage, Wight said.

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