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By Caroline Downs
Class sizes at Kenmare Public School dominated the discussion at the school board’s Curriculum & Technology Committee meeting Thursday.
Although students just finished the first quarter, Superintendent Duane Mueller is looking ahead to the 2013-2014 school year to determine teaching assignments and numbers of students in classrooms.
“If the numbers hold true to what they are right now, this is what we’re looking at,” he told committee members Lenny Rodin and Jan Kostad.
The projected number of kindergarten students for next year is 23. First grade would have 35 students; second grade, 18 students; third grade, 24; fourth grade, 25; fifth grade, 22 and sixth grade, 22.
“Currently, our kindergarten, second and third grades are split,” Mueller said. “[Elementary] Principal Gerding and I are asking ourselves if we should keep the third grade split as fourth graders next year? Do we have space? Should we add one more elementary classroom teacher?”
Kostad referred to the new 12-plexes and additional housing development in the plans for an area south of Division Street in Kenmare. “Some of those 60 units could be up by next September,” he said. “That should bring in some kids and more than likely at the elementary school.”
Kenmare Elementary School has four grades using five classrooms at the high school this year. “So next year, do we need six classrooms?” Kostad asked. He suggested keeping the kindergarten class divided next year if the projected enrollment remains the same.
Mueller and business manager Renae Murphy pointed out a concern in the students-to-teacher ratio between the two levels. The ratio in grades 7 through 12 is 8:1, including the ITV, band and chorus classes, while the ratio in the elementary grades is 13:1.
“It makes more sense to have a lower ratio at the elementary,” Murphy said. “With what can be offered through ITV, there’s no sense in saying let’s have more teachers at the high school level than the elementary. We’re way over-staffed.”
Mueller said some high school faculty members had announced or were considering their retirements. “How do we replace them?” he asked. “Do we replace them?”
He described a problem in the scheduled with the number of study halls students are allowed to take. “Right now, we have a seven-period day,” he said. “Our graduation requirement is 22 credits, and we have study halls all day long.”
He continued, “Our high school staff is veteran and they do a fantastic job teaching, but we need to get kids into those classes.”
He distributed the high school schedule, with the number of students enrolled in each class offered right now. “For example, in our ITV classes, here’s Spanish I,” he said. “We have one class of two students and one of four. We should be able to create a schedule where all six could be in one class, which might allow us to offer something else on ITV.”
The committee discussed the possibilities of raising the number of required graduation credits to 24 and moving all study halls to seventh period. They also reviewed the list of elective courses offered during each two-year cycle at KHS and the breakdown of credits required for graduation by the state of North Dakota.
Kostad and Rodin asked Mueller to provide information about the number of credits earned by KHS seniors during the past three years. They also encouraged him to draft a seven-period day schedule with study hall held during the final period.
“It would be nice to see a potential schedule by the January board meeting,” Kostad said, “and see something pretty concrete by March.”
No recommendations were made about replacing staff members.
Common Core Standards
Superintendent Mueller briefly described the national Common Core standards, adopted by the state of North Dakota and scheduled to be implemented beginning with the 2013-2014 school year. “There will be some changes from the North Dakota standards we’ve been teaching by,” said Mueller. “We may be shifting some of the concepts and skills we’ve taught in the lower grades, and we may have to look at getting some supplemental items and materials.”
Mueller said he and Gerding were discussing ways to provide training for the Common Core to the elementary teachers. “We want to give the teachers time to map out their curriculum,” he said. “We also want to look at the K-12 curriculum and see when things are taught.”
According to Mueller, the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction is reviewing different teacher and principal evaluations to use once the Common Core is implemented. “Even our state assessments will change,” Mueller said. “The nice thing about the Common Core Standards is that if a student comes from another state, their school has been following the same standards as our district, theoretically.”
He advised the committee members that the Kenmare school administrators and staff would do more work with the Common Core Standards during the spring semester. “If you want to know what the Kenmare kids will need to know, there’s a link to the Common Core Standards on the DPI website,” he told the committee.
The committee reviewed the district’s technology needs, with Mueller noting the new Common Core emphasized a greater need for more keyboarding skills at younger ages. “That will be one more thing to add to the school day,” he said.
Currently, Kenmare Elementary School has 65 iPads, or two classroom sets for use by the elementary students. “So we’re looking at one period of iPad use per day for each class?” Kostad asked. “Maybe we should be looking at another set.”
Mueller said the laptop computers used for the past five years by students in grades kindergarten through two have held up well. The laptops have smaller keyboards and were designed to withstand normal wear and tear as well as accidental dropping. “Those have really been good for the younger grades,” he said.
Students in grades 7 through 12 use netbooks owned by the school, and Mueller reported success with those. Any equipment needed at this point would be at the elementary level, especially with students in grades three through six now in classrooms at the high school.
Kostad asked Mueller to talk with the teachers about their interest in more iPads. “See if they would use them,” he said. “I’d like to see more for the elementary.”
Murphy recommended any technology purchases be considered at the end of the budget year.
The committee also discussed the possible development and extension of the school’s website with students. “For some kids, that might be something they look forward to working on,” said Rodin.
The committee reported their discussion and recommendations to the full board at Tuesday’s meeting.