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Middletown Area Middle School changes schedule for student, teacher flexibility

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 6/24/20

Change is coming to the Middletown Area Middle School schedule next year.

Math, English language arts, social studies and science classes all will be the same length — 50 …

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Middletown Area Middle School changes schedule for student, teacher flexibility

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Change is coming to the Middletown Area Middle School schedule next year.

Math, English language arts, social studies and science classes all will be the same length — 50 minutes.

Additionally, there will be an activity period at the start of the day in which students will participate in band and chorus, and there will be a separate enrichment and remediation period later in the day.

“We wanted to create a flexible schedule that was equitable to all students,” said Chelton Hunter, assistant to the superintendent, during the May 19 Middletown Area School Board meeting.

Breakfast and homeroom, the first period of the day, start at 7:30 a.m., and students are dismissed at 3 p.m.

The biggest premise for changing the schedule was to create equity for all students and helping to meet the needs of all students, Hunter said.

The schedule was created by a committee that worked on it for several months.

“I know as the committee chair, I’m really excited about the schedule, and I know the staff at the middle school is going to embrace it,” Hunter said.

There were a couple of issues with the current schedule identified by Hunter, such as flexibility. 

In some instances, all of the top students were in one section, which meant they were together all day, every day. Also it was difficult for teachers who taught multiple grades to collaborate with other teachers who taught the same grade. For example, a teacher who taught sixth and seventh grades would be teaching seventh-graders when the sixth-grade teachers would meet. But Hunter said the new schedule allows teachers to work together in smaller teams.

Hunter said creative arts classes are overcrowded. According to the district website, middle-schoolers currently take health and physical education, music, art, family and consumer science, and industrial technology. To reduce those class sizes, Hunter said a digital media and STEM (short for science, technology, engineering and math) teachers were added to the creative arts teams.

All of the creative arts classes will be 50 minutes long.

There’s a large incoming seventh-grade class. Hunter said class sizes for next year will be 27 or 28 students in seventh-grade classes, and 24 or 25 students in sixth- and eighth-grade classes.

The school day for all of the students will start with breakfast and homeroom.

According to Hunter, 48.51 percent of MAMS students qualify for free or reduced meals and the districtwide number is 52.89 percent.

“We know it’s important to start the kids off that maybe don’t have the ability to eat breakfast in the morning to have that ability to come to the middle school and eat breakfast, even if they’re late,” Hunter said.

After breakfast, students will go into an activity period. Teachers can check in with students, students could ask questions, and special education teachers can meet with case managers.

Band and chorus will be held during this time, Hunter said.

“The sky’s the limit for this activity period,” Hunter said.

Some suggestions for this period could be a homework club or social and emotional curriculum.

All of the students will have two creative arts classes and their four core periods.  The current schedule had 86-minute periods of English language arts and math, and 43-minute social studies and science classes. Now, all core classes will be 50 minutes.

“That created some inequitable opportunities and situations for the science and social studies teachers in that kids were like, science and social studies don’t matter because we only have them half the time that we have ELA and math,” Hunter said.

MAMS will add a third lunch period. There are only two periods under the current schedule. Now, each grade will have its own lunch period.

Eighth-grade lunch will begin at 10:51 a.m., seventh grade at 11:37 a.m., and sixth grade at 12:28 p.m.

“The lunch times — is there any way you could combine two of those? Because one of them is really late in my opinion because they’re almost ready to go home,” asked board member Mel Fager Jr. at the May meeting.

MASD Superintendent Lori Suski said it’s too many students to have in two lunch periods.

Fager asked if it would make sense to feed the sixth-graders earlier than later. Hunter said lunch could be flipped, but fifth grade, which the sixth-graders transition from, sometimes are scheduled to eat later in the day, and that could be a difficult change. A later lunch would also encourage the students to eat breakfast, Suski said.

Either before or after lunch there will be a flex period. This would be the time in which students would be scheduled for enrichment or remediation activities, Hunter said.

“That allows us to have the ability to do whatever we need to do to meet kids’ needs — that flexibility — whereas there’s no flex period built into the schedule that we currently have,” Hunter said.

Under the current schedule, there was an enrichment intervention period at end of day, but band and chorus students would get pulled out during that period.

“This is a way where we can get those students that band and chorus opportunity without pulling them away from their academics, which will happen during that flex period,” Hunter said.