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Expanded Middle School, All-Day Kindergarten Desired To Help Meet Education Reforms

School board says early education and content-specific teaching will be needed to meet rising educational standards.

 

The Town Council will hear from school representatives Wednesday night about why, with declining enrollment, would they want to increase the footprint and grade distribution of the district by adding a wing to the middle school for sixth graders.

“The common core really drove the idea that we would like to reorganize,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Graner.

The school board requested $20,000 to hire an architect to determine the feasibility of a adding a new wing but the request was tabled at the last Town Council meeting and referred to the Permanent Municipal Building Committee.  The study would determine if it’s possible to add to the middle school grounds and how much it would cost.

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Town Council Chairman Sean Sullivan did not support the request and cited declining school enrollment as a reason not to add to the middle school.

“To see declining student enrollment and then at the same time to see a project come forward that actually builds new footprint,” “Is that really what we need to be doing here.”

The curriculum for the common core state standards was adopted Connecticut Board of Education in July of 2010 and is due to be implemented by the spring of 2014 and the tests will replace the Connecticut Mastery Tests.

“This is a revolution,” said Graner of the new educational standards. “This is a significant reform.“

The national standards for early education have improved dramatically and kindergarten teachers are saying the expectations for their students cannot be taught in a half-day program, said Graner.

According to the new standards, kindergarteners will be required to read fluently, add and subtract, count to 100 by ones and tens, and construct viable arguments and critique the mathematical reasoning of others, for instance.

The curriculum is designed to be delivered by general education teachers for kindergarten through fifth grade students; by content certified teachers for sixth through eighth grade students and there’s separate high school curriculum for ninth through twelfth grades, according to Graner.

“That’s the big plan in the sky,” said Graner. “Sixth graders to the middle school so they can get content from certified content specialists, kindergarten children would come full-day.”

Graner said if the sixth graders are not moved to the middle school, elementary school teachers will have to take professional development courses in order to deliver the common core state standards curriculum.

Cathy Patterson, the assistant superintendent, said that Ledyard teachers will be prepared to teach the new education standards by the spring of 2014 but there’s a lot to do in the meantime.

“If we move the sixth graders out, we would have space for all day kindergarten,” said Graner. “Right now we just don’t have the space.”

Graner said that Ledyard schools are eligible for a 66 percent, or two-thirds percent reimbursement, for new school construction and the declining enrollment may enable the district to close an elementary school.

“I don’t want to overpromise this but I believe there will be significant savings if we close a school,” he said. “Overall, I think we would save such a significant amount that the cost to the town of the sixth grade wing would be negligible.”

Among finer details, a feasibility study would determine if a wing is possible and the best use of the space, how big it should be, how much it would cost to build and how much the town would have to bond.

James April 24, 2012 at 09:56 AM
I agree with Mr.Sullivan, with declining enrollment and no money this is NO TIME to even think of school expansion. A much cheaper way to go would be to have elementary teachers become certified in the additioinal coursework. It also seems the "national standards" have become non-sensical. We're requiring kindergarteners to read while many middle school students can't. Maybe the goal is to teach them while they're young because it's hopeless when they're older.
Jerrica Watrous April 24, 2012 at 01:29 PM
There's declining enrollment because the education in this town is NOT very good. Every child on my street is homeschooled, except for one. I have a daughter in the high school, and an elementary grade son that I have been Homeschooling for two years. When we first moved here in 2005, and enrolled our two oldest children in the schools (one in middle school and one in elementary at that time) we were astonished at how far behind Ledyard schools were compared to the school district they had just come from. And as for adding a wing onto the middle school, I hope they are also considering adding walls to make real classrooms inside the current building. It's absolutely absurd in this day and age to have a school with no walls. Even teachers have expressed their concern that God forbid a kid should come to school with a weapon, what are they going to do, Hide behind a coat closet?
Jerrica Watrous April 24, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Ps, my daughter had the privelege off attending an all day kindergarten school, and what a difference it made in her academic foundation!! I think all day kindergarten is a good idea for so many reasons. But Ledyard's academic system needs a complete overhaul, from K-12. Focusing on just kindergarten is like putting a band-aide on a damn that's about to explode. Get these kids a real education, and stop focusing on all the social crap!! Teach these kids how to read, how to spell, how to write, how to do math (and I mean real math, without essays and spelling tests) get back to the basics and teach what has been proven to work. Okay, that's enough of my two cents, it just bothers me when I see common sense missing in society.
Lisa Foster April 24, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Before we can use declining enrollment as the reason for not expanding the middle school and going to a full day Kindergarten, we must ask why is enrollment declining. The housing market, the expense overall for Ledyard, our current school system? There are too many unanswered questions in that regard. Sixth graders should be moved to the middle school in an effort to better prepare them for high school. We currently have three elementary schools coming together, which provides a huge social change for students. Not only do they need to adjust to a new routine with new expectations and demands, they also thrown into a new social environment. It is a big adjustment and personally I don't think the environment properly prepares them for the high school. When it comes to full day Kindergarten, I think we are far behind where we should be. Last year my son's class had 21 students. Twenty-one five and six year-olds. That is a lot of classroom management for one teacher plus teaching the curriculum and getting them all ready for first grade. I think the teachers do a tremendous job and should be applauded! The fact is though it is too much to get done in a 2 1/2 hour day. We are short changing our children. At a time when American students are falling behind in the international community in terms of education, we should be putting more money into the education system. A good education system draws people to a community. Ledyard needs to invest in education!
Nora April 24, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Here, Here!! to the comment above "And as for adding a wing onto the middle school, I hope they are also considering adding walls to make real classrooms inside the current building. It's absolutely absurd in this day and age to have a school with no walls."
Linda Davis April 24, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Declining school enrollment is not specific to Ledyard and is not a reflection of the quality of our school system. The student population in Connecticut has dropped every year since 2004 and school enrollment in Connecticut is projected to continue the decline over the next several years, bottoming out around 2019.
Stephanie Calhoun April 25, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Thank you Linda Davis for that clarification behind the declining enrollment. As a parent I am immensely proud of our school and our school district! It is disheartening to hear people be unsupportive of our great schools, wonderful students, and dedicated teachers. I am in support of all day Kindergarten based on personal experience before coming to Ledyard. I am also supportive of moving the 6th graders to the middle school. We employ some very talented school administrators that are EXPERTS in their field, if they say that the coming educational changes require that 6th graders be taught by subject area specialists we should listen and support. No armchair quarterbacking.
Naomi Rodriguez April 27, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Well said Lisa!!
Sharon Pealer April 28, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Thank you Linda for so clearly stating the situation faced by the town and region as far as declining population. We are feeling the effect of the business loss in the state to other states. Simply put people will follow the jobs. I have also heard that our population is aging which also will cut into the student population in the schools. I am very sad to hear that some in town do not feel that the school system is doing a good job educating our students. I have not found that to be the case. My own experience is that many of our students do get accepted to first choice colleges and thrive in them with the education they receive here. I think that we must all keep in mind that education is a partnership with three parts, the student, teachers and the parents. To be successful all three parts need to work together.

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