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New class schedules discussed as part of Bremerton's only middle school faces restructuring

Next year’s class schedule at Mountain View Middle School will look different — class periods will be longer for math and language arts — and may include linking together English classes and social studies.

Because of seven straight years of not meeting state testing requirements, the Bremerton School District will implement a restructuring plan next school year. The district has until July 1 to submit the plan to the state.

Currently students are dismissed at 12:40 p.m. on Wednesdays, which allows for 35-minute class periods.

“Wednesdays are going to look different,” said Mountain View Middle School Principal Michaeleen Gelhaus, adding that the school has not set a date for when they plan to have a finalized schedule for the restructuring plan.

Three different models — all of which increase instruction time for math and language arts — were laid out last week at a special meeting of Bremerton School Board.

One of the three models would have social studies classes blocked together with language arts classes. Although the idea of blocking math and science classes back to back had been discussed in past meetings, the three models did not include that concept.

Eighth grade social studies teacher, Carol Mayo, would rather not have a blocking schedule.

“It’s a separate disciple really. If you mesh it with language arts, you’re going to lose it,” Mayo said of social studies.

With its current school schedule, students spend 215 minutes in math class per week. The new models have the instruction time increasing to 315 minutes a week to, at most, 427 minutes in one week. Currently 215 minutes is spent in language arts and the same format for increasing instruction time would be applied to that subject as well.

Although faculty and parents were seeing the schedules for the first time at the meeting, of the three models, the one that received most discussion was one that includes 98-minute classes for both math and language arts with 49-minute period classes for remaining subjects. The structure behind having 98-minute classes for math and language arts would designate 60 minutes for instruction with 38 minutes devoted toward extra help for those who need it, Gelhaus said. No teaching positions would be eliminated because of restructuring, she added.

Seventh grade social studies teacher Janet Davis said she likes this draft schedule because it would the increase the amount of time spent on the subject and would also allow for more flexibility in the classroom.

“It’s going to be a different atmosphere with our kids,” Davis said.

And if it resonates with the teachers, it may with parents as well.

Rebecca Montgomery has a son in the sixth grade at Mountain View and a daughter now in high school who attended the middle school for all three years. She said she trusts the teachers’ judgment and said she supports the 98-minute schedule if all teachers support it as well.

However, she said communication from the school and district was lacking.

“The process could have been handled better,” said Montgomery, adding that parents should have been made aware of the issues months ago.

In addition to a change in class schedule, the district hopes to enhance parent involvement and communication and improve interventions for students struggling with academic and discipline problems.

After being notified in the fall of the middle school’s failure to meet Adequate Yearly Progress — the state’s system for measuring math and reading achievement as mandated by federal law — for the seventh time, the school entered step 4 of improvement which includes creating a restructuring plan. The plan will be submitted to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction by July 1 as part of the federal improvement process. The improvement process is made up of a total of 5 steps. If the school continues to not meet testing requirements, it will remain in step 5 of improvement.

“Ultimately all schools fail,” said Superintendent Lester “Flip” Herndon. “It’s been unfair law from the beginning.”

Herndon added he hopes that the scheduling portion of the restructuring plan would be submitted to the state soon in case any changes need to be made.

“We don’t want to risk a rejection,” he said.

While teachers continue to familiarize themselves with the draft schedules and parents provide their thoughts, there are some like Montgomery who have faith that through the process, things at the district’s only middle school will improve.

“We’re not going anywhere. We’re lifelong Bremerton School District people,” she said.

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