CLEARFIELD – Parents, students and educators filled the audience portion of the room during last night’s Clearfield school board meeting.
Some were concerned about possible cuts to music programs at the Clearfield Area Elementary School, others were concerned with proposed scheduling changes at CAES and others spoke about changes in course work at the Clearfield Area Junior-Senior High School level.
The school board has been looking to change the start time at CAES to allow teachers some prep time before the school day begins.
When concerns were voiced about how the proposed change in the CAES start time would affect the music programs, Superintendent Terry Struble explained that they are not being targeted. However, he said there could be changes to what is available, depending on the schedule they decide on.
One CAES music teacher spoke to the board and explained that the proposed schedule will restrict ensemble practices to a couple after-school rehearsals prior to a concert, which is not nearly enough time, and lesson time would be reduced as well.
She said the detriment would then be felt at the CAJSHS level when the students move up. A parent expressed concern because her child, who is autistic, thrives in choir because it is somewhere he feels he belongs and the other students accept him, and she fears losing that will hurt him and many other students.
Some parents and educators noted that studies indicate elementary-aged students do better earlier in the morning, whereas older students (junior and senior high) do better when classes start later, and asked the board to consider this option.
An elementary teacher gave a short presentation on this, and added that some of the elementary teachers have worked together on some schedules that would be beneficial to both teachers and students.
He said that the teachers want to sit down with board members and discuss the scheduling before something is put into place.
The teacher said one of the biggest scheduling problems they are seeing at the school is with the lunches, with 400 students hitting the cafeteria and bathrooms all at the same time, and many kids do not have adequate time.
Teachers are suggesting staggering the lunches and also having the older students help the new kindergarten students with navigating the cafeteria the first few weeks of school, which will help the lunch aide and create a bond with students.
Struble said nothing was set in stone and the board is still looking at options. Before the board votes, Struble and board President Larry Putt agreed parents would be given a copy of the proposed schedule and would be notified via phone and on the Web site.
A statement e-mailed to GANT News from the Clearfield Education Association noted that the association is willing to support scheduling changes that reflect input from all stakeholders including administration, faculty, staff, parents and the school board.
It was noted they all have the goal of providing the best education for students, and that faculty look forward to working with others on solutions.
Students and parents also raised concern about changes to the advanced chemistry class and changing the teacher. Students said they have learned a great deal from Ms. Fye and that she holds them to high standards while also helping them to succeed.
The proposed change also includes reducing the class time from 60 to 40 minutes and a change in scope of the class itself.
One student noted that honors science classes are critical for students who plan to attend college in science fields, such as engineering or chemistry. One parent noted that her children gained maturity and flourished under the program.
At the end of the evening, school board member Gail Ralston raised the issue of the science classes and said she regretted voting on the change. She said she did some research and feels the changes will be harmful to the students and the proposed courses for the coming school year will not prepare students for the future.
The board members discussed this with Tim Morgan concerned about how this will affect scheduling already under way, a concern echoed by Michael Spencer.
Struble said he understood the concerns raised during the meeting and said part of it is a balance between demand and resources, especially if the class is only requested or scheduled by eight or nine students.
“I know what I’m asking for is not easy,” Ralston said, adding, “I think we made an error.”
The board agreed to look into reversing their decision. Feedback on this and the scheduling matter will be given at the next meeting June 19.