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Valley News Dispatch

New schedules move forward at Dorseyville Middle School but will be reviewed, modified as needed

Tawnya Panizzi
| Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 12:24 p.m.

The Fox Chapel Area School Board recently drew ire from a packed room of parents concerned about scheduling changes at Dorseyville Middle School, but moved forward with a tentative plan to increase time students spend in math and science while still providing teens time in art, music and gym.

Board members voted 8-1, with Edith Cook opposing, to authorize Superintendent Gene Freeman to modify the middle school schedule for the 2018-19 school year.

The proposed plan will undergo further review and possible modifications before it is enacted, Freeman said.

District Coordinator of Communications Bonnie Berzonski said physical education will be required in grades six to eight. Currently, students get 11,264 minutes of gym. With the change, they will get 9,080 minutes.

“However, some of what was taught as part of health will now be taught as part of science, such as body systems,” she said. “So, some health topics will get absorbed into the science curriculum.”

Berzonski said class times for other classes like art and computer science will increase for some students under the new schedule.

As proposed, there will be 60 minutes of math with an added 20 minutes of intervention and enrichment in math, replacing the current system where the supplemental instruction takes place in home base where students now meet each morning.

DMS students will continue to have a home base period, Berzonski said, and social studies will continue to be a core course.

Seventh- and eighth-grade students will get the choice of two scheduling options called the Exposure and the Individualized pathways. The Exposure path is similar to the current schedule and gives students an array of classes; the Individualized path lets students choose more intensive time in core subjects.

Freeman said he and the board have listened to comments from many of the 800 people who signed an online petition asking for more review and transparency.

“I agree with you that 80 minutes is too long to sit in class,” he said. “I agree with you that home base is important.”

Parents have asked the board for proof of curriculum shortcomings, and many said gearing a new schedule around test results denies children a well-rounded education.

Fairview teacher and president of the district educators' association Lisa Lang asked the crowd for time.

“We will work with Dorseyville teachers and administration,” she said. “Please trust us to do what we feel is best for the students.”

Parent Natalie Gillespie was encouraged by the decision to review the scheduling changes before they are put into effect.

“We hope parents will be added as an active part of that process very soon,” said Gillespie, who has two students at DMS.

“Operating in silos has created an unproductive divisiveness in our community. We all want the same thing and that is what's best for all children.”

Gillespie is part of a group pressing the board to delay schedule changes until the 2019-20 school year.

A 26-page summary of proposed schedule alterations is posted on the district website at fcasd.edu.

Parents concerned that the new plan will reduce time students spend in music, art or tech ed can compare the current schedule with what is planned in the future.

Parent Bill Adams said some changes are needed but middle school is designed to explore an array of subjects.

“They are beginning to address their interests and we don't want them to lose the things that count,” Adams said.

The board meets next at 7 p.m. April 9 at the high school.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach her at 412-782-2121, ext. 2, tpanizzi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tawnyatrib.

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