School board: Big changes require more detailRed Wing's fifth- and eighth-graders likely will call different buildings home next year, but not until more details emerge.
By: Mike Longaecker, The Republican Eagle
Red Wing's fifth- and eighth-graders likely will call different buildings home next year, but not until more details emerge.
Red Wing School Board members balked Monday at approving the change, which would send fifth-graders to Twin Bluff Middle School and eighth-graders to Red Wing High School.
The decision followed an extensive presentation by Twin Bluff Middle School leaders who explained plans to facilitate the district's entire fifth grade by the 2010-11 school year. The school would have to add four full-time equivalents and construct a playground area to accommodate the changes, officials said.
Preliminary costs tallied $215,000, though hard numbers remained at bay Monday. The omission seemed to stick in some School Board members' craw.
"I wouldn't feel responsible unless I had a little more fine tuning in those numbers," School Board member Heidi Jones said at the meeting.
Still, board members expressed confidence they would vote for the plan in two weeks, when administrators will be expected to present more detailed proposals.
School Board members are expected to vote next month on a plan to move fifth-graders from Burnside Elementary to Twin Bluff and to shift eighth-graders from the middle school to Red Wing High School.
High school Principal Beth Borgen made a similar presentation earlier this month.
The proposal is aimed at freeing up space at the district's elementary schools, where new teachers are set to be added, in keeping with a 2008 referendum pledge to shrink class sizes.
Reshuffled grades wouldn't be the only change coming to Twin Bluff.
Under the proposal, the school would shift to block scheduling for core classes and students would receive an additional 30 minutes of math instruction every day.
Scott Kosek, an English teacher at Twin Bluff and member of a committee tasked with mapping out the change, described the plan as "in its infancy."
Block scheduling, he said, would allow teachers to reach students in a more effective way. The proposal calls for a lower student-to-teacher ratio in core subject areas, which would span 74 minutes.
Students currently spend 44 minutes in a class.
"Many teachers are frustrated with the 44-minute block," Twin Bluff Principal Nancy Glasenapp said. "It starts to feel assembly-line."
The change would mean extensive retraining for teachers as they learn to accommodate the longer class period, Twin Bluff leaders said.
"I couldn't certainly lecture for that long," Kosek said.
Teachers would likely travel to or receive training from schools with where block scheduling, Glasenapp said.
While Twin Bluff officials gather more details, School Board members also must determine how the reshuffling project will be funded.
Reshuffling cost estimates add up to $511,000.
"I'm still not clear how we're going to pay for this," School Board member Stephen O'Keefe said.
As much as half of the estimate represents one-time costs, Supt. Stan Slessor said. He said administrators hope an upcoming audit will reveal a greater cash balance than anticipated. That could help fund the one-time costs.
Ongoing costs would have to be analyzed in the district's five-year financial plan, he said.