As District 91 building principals begin to ready their schools for a restructured 2009-2010, teaching assignments, schedules and piles of other logistical matters are starting to be addressed. Though administrators may take heart in the school board’s unanimous support to transition from neighborhood schools to so-called “grade-level centers,” only now can the real work begin.
According to Superintendent Lou Cavallo, the next few months must go well for all the stakeholders so that the bottom line-student learning-isn’t undermined.
Teachers have already received their assignments dictating which building they’ll be in next year, but principals are still in the process of divvying up classrooms. At Betsy Ross Elementary, Principal Bill Milnamow explained that he’s been given a handful of second-grade teachers, though he will have only three second-grade classrooms.
Because each school will see some grade levels eliminated, teachers must be reassigned. Those assignments were made with input from the teachers’ union, according to Cavallo.
“That pretty much went off without a hitch,” Cavallo said. “Pretty much, everybody got to go where they wanted to.”
Milnamow said all of his teachers next year will lead a grade level with which they’ve worked in years past, but principals can’t guarantee that will be the case. Teachers seem genuinely excited about working under the new structure, said Milnamow, and at least in his case, so far so good.
“Just being able to focus on the primary kids will be a big help,” Milnamow said.
In terms of both classroom space and its student body, Betsy Ross is the smallest school in District 91. Six of the nine classrooms will be occupied next year by teachers who are currently elsewhere in the district.
Thanks to a unanimous decision by the school board in December, Forest Park’s K-5 public elementary schools will no longer host students of each grade level. Instead, Betsy Ross and Garfield Elementary will cater to kids in kindergarten, first and second grade while Field-Stevenson Elementary and Grant-White Elementary house grades 3-5.
The middle school, located adjacent to Field-Stevenson, will not affected by the change.
Making the transition easier for parents and students will be a focus throughout the schools, according to administrators. Beginning in early February, a pen-pal program will begin so that students who do not yet attend school together can get to know one another. Joint meetings with parent-teacher committees are also slated for the coming weeks.
In the months leading up to the board’s decision, district officials heard consistently from a handful of parents who were adamantly opposed to implementing grade-level centers. Those parents voiced concern that student performance would suffer, that after-school activities would conflict and engaged parents would become disenfranchised.