BELMONT — The Shaker Regional School Board voted Tuesday night to implement the three changes request by voters who attended last Friday's Annual School District meeting.
The first was full-day kindergarten, which was petitioned on to the ballot and will be added in the 2015-2016 school year at a cost of $403,000.
Superintendent Maria Dreyer explained that there was not enough space for all-day kindergarten and universal preschool at Belmont Elementary School. As of yesterday she said she had 40 kindergarteners who has registered with Belmont and four who had registered with Canterbury — a school building with plenty of space.
Dreyer said the school still needs two classrooms for special education and that is not negotiable. By adding three additional classrooms for kindergarten, the school would forgo the computer lab, the Title 1 classroom and the readiness classroom.
Belmont Elementary Principal Sheila Arnold said Title 1 would still continue as part of general education and readiness would be handled in the first grade.
Arnold and Canterbury Principal Mary Morrison assured the school board and the one or two parents who attended the meeting that they would get it done.
Voters also elected to keep and fund the Belmont High School science teacher who had be eliminated from the budget proposal because of declining enrollments and extremely small classes at upper levels.
One of the concerns of the board was building interest in science in the middle school years to increase participation at high-level (honors and Advanced Placement) science classes.
Dreyer said she would move around some of the STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classes and combine students to make core classes a little bigger so a few science teachers could dedicate some time to teaching more advanced classes.
Gretta Olson-Wilder suggested sending a survey to middle school students and ask what kinds of science interests them and then matching those students to the science teachers who are trained to teach that discipline.
Richy Bryant said he was concerned about the seeming lack of interest in science.
"How do we spark that enjoyment for it?" he asked.
Middle School Principal Aaron Pope said he would like to start offering additional science themes to his STEM curriculum to create some interest as the students move on.
Both he and High School Principal Dan Clary said that for some reason students start to loose interest in science around eighth grade. The student representative from the middle school said he agreed but thinks some of it may be that some of his fellow students don't always see eye-to-eye with the science teacher. He added that VLACS (a program administered by a computer-based charter school) provides on-line programs to students in nearly all disciplines.
Pope said the standards are rigorous in the middle school and he believes as students get used to having more expected from them, they will gain better interest in science in their later years.
As to supporting the preservation of the historic but empty Gale School building, Bryant of Belmont and Bob Reed of Canterbury volunteered to work with the Friends of the Gale School Committee to look for grants and other financial assistance. Voters had tabled a request for funds to demolish the building, which sits on a perch behind the middle school, on the edge of Bryant Park.
In other news, the School Board announced they had renewed Dreyer's contract for another two years. She will earn $120,000 for 2016 to 2017, with the right to negotiate her 2017-2018 contract.
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