School shuffle brings other changes for Rondout Valley
KYSERIKE, N.Y. — Replacing recess with advisory and activity periods for junior high students, opening a Parent Resource Center, and teaching pupils more through projects are among changes school administrators outlined for the first school year under the Rondout Valley district’s new configuration.
Earlier this year, the school board voted to move fourth grade from district elementary schools to a new intermediate school that serves grades four through six, established alongside a separate junior high school for seventh- and eighth-graders to replace the existing middle school.
District Superintendent Rosario Agostaro supported the model and spoke of his long-term vision of organizing junior high school students into thematic “houses” and developing exploratory programs for younger students.
Agostaro said this week he sees the themes and programs surrounding them as likely to grow incrementally over the next few years, and he emphasized allowing the ideas to grow organically through the passions of educations involved rather than through an imposed timeline.
One prospect for an early initiative that could evolve into a larger theme is a partnership school officials hope to develop with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to provide science, technology, engineering, and math programs.
Concrete new plans for the coming school year include replacing recess for seventh- and eighth-graders with an activity-advisory period, during which teachers will volunteer to supervise 15-minute periods in which students can get involved with art, music, gaming, poetry, and homework clubs.
“Some of the basic reasons (for the change to a more structured social activity) are there was a lot of bullying going on during recess, not enough supervision, and there are not many seventh- and eighth-grade programs that have recess anymore,” said Charles Tadduni, principal of the new junior high school.
Agostaro said the effort is “part of the social-emotional piece that often gets set aside. He described the efforts as “parallel” to concerns of many parents about moving fourth-graders into the same school as their older peers.
Tadduni said school officials also plan to rekindle an effort that fizzled out two years ago to reward positive behavior among students, the same program being emphasized at the high school. Patricia Robbins, the intermediate school principal, said a complementary program called Responsive Classroom is being implemented in the elementary grades.
The newly organized middle school is also creating a Parent Resource Center, which will have materials for parents available like literature for parents of special needs students as a way not only to get parents engaged but also to bring them inside the school, said Agostaro. Continued...
Other points of emphasis for 2012-13 include expanding interdisciplinary project-based learning throughout the district and emphasizing literacy skills in all subject areas.
Some changes from early plans for the new school include having one schoolwide parent-teacher organization rather than two separate ones, and housing the intermediate and junior high schools on separate floors rather than having an east-west divide through the building.
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