Gilbert board to decide 'A hour' fate - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Gilbert board to decide 'A hour' fate

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Posted: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 5:47 pm | Updated: 1:52 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The Gilbert school board will decide Thursday whether to eliminate the extra early morning classes known as “A hour” at Highland Junior High School, as well as cutting a list of classes districtwide that have had low enrollment throughout the past couple of years. Some of the classes that could be cut include finite math, chess and baseball history at the high school level. At the junior high schools, acoustic guitar, music theory and history, and introduction to equine science could be eliminated. 

The Gilbert school board will decide Thursday whether to eliminate the extra early morning classes known as “A hour” at Highland Junior High School, as well as cutting a list of classes districtwide that have had low enrollment throughout the past couple of years.

Some of the classes that could be cut include finite math, chess and baseball history at the high school level. At the junior high schools, acoustic guitar, music theory and history, and introduction to equine science could be eliminated.

Gilbert Unified School District board members will continue the lengthy discussion held at last week’s school board meeting and make final decisions on changes to the 2010-11 junior high and high school course description books.

“We’re not cutting any programs,” said board president Thad Stump on Tuesday. “We are not making any cuts to music classes at the high school level, nor are we considering moving anything to extracurricular status.”

Several of those opinions expressed at the last school board meeting, including Stump suggesting band classes should be extracurricular instead of academic classes, will not be discussed Thursday, he said. The issue wasn’t popular with the other board members.

“In all honesty, I don’t feel so strongly that I even want to go there,” Stump said.

Another suggestion made by board member Helen Hollands to possibly cut German classes, will be a future discussion next year on what languages Gilbert should offer.

District officials will take a “close” look next year and determine if all languages should be offered all four years, or whether it would make sense to eliminate some languages, Stump said Tuesday.

Doing away with the “A hour” at the junior high level has caused concern at Highland Junior High School, which is the only district junior high that offers the early morning class before the regular school day starts. The “A hour” permits seventh-graders to have two electives as opposed to one. The two “A hour” classes offered are language arts and an honors math class. Eighth-graders also take advantage of the early morning period if they need to make up a class.

Board members want to take away the “A hour” because “it’s only being done at one school, and the number of students that are given that opportunity is not afforded to any other junior high,” Stump said. “There should be a uniform offering.”

There is also a financial impact to providing additional classes in a school, Stump said.

However, doing this will affect the jazz band program at the school, said Chip Durham, Highland Junior High’s band director and chairman of the music department, because the seventh-grade jazz students also must take concert band, an elective course, to be in jazz band. So they have to use the “A hour” for one of their required courses in language or math.

“It’s not just about jazz band and it’s not just about money,” Durham said. “It opens up a wide variety of advantages and options for our students at zero extra cost to the district. The idea of getting rid of ‘A hour,’ it’s confusing to me.”

Essentially this will remove seventh-graders from the jazz program at Highland Junior High, Stump said.

“It will bring his program in line with what the rest of the band teachers across the district have to deal with,” Stump said. “This is the only school that has seventh-graders in jazz band.”

Board members were considering recommendations to cut classes that had low enrollment for the past two years. At least 18 students are needed for a class to be offered.

Mesquite High School speech and debate students, parents and coaches successfully swayed the board last week from removing two speech classes.

Besides the list of 20 other high school classes suggested to be cut, board members also suggested cutting four additional social studies electives: military history, baseball history, popular American music, and history of American cinema classes.

However, the board may decide to combine the music and cinema classes into one.

“We’re not in a position that we can offer courses just because we want to offer them,” Stump said. “The courses really need to be a fit or align with the core and direction of what this district is all about,” which is “providing an exemplary education to all of our students.”

Board members have asked for more information about these classes before making a decision. Administration is expected Thursday to “make a case why those four classes fit within our curriculum,” Stump said.

Christopher Stroud, an assistant principal at Desert Ridge High School, and a former social studies teacher, said he has mixed feelings about these four classes.

“Certainly I see where the board is coming from. They are operating in the same fiscal situations as we all are, and you do have to make directions as to where our academics will go,” Stroud said. However, “these classes do sometimes pull in a kid that has an interest” in those subjects, and possibly keep them interested in school.

A parent group was started in late October, Gilbert Advocates for Music Education, or GAME. Any decisions made to music programs or classes is a concern to the group, and the parents want to partner with the district in any of those decisions, said Jason Barney, a parent of four students who got involved in the group last week.

“We understand the district will be facing tough decisions,” Barney said. “We want to make sure as they look at what to cut that they have a clear and focused understanding on how important the music program is in Gilbert. In general, we want to protect marching band and jazz band programs at the elementary and junior high level.”

For more information on the Gilbert Advocates for Music Education parent group, visit gilbertmusicmatters.com.

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