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Chappaqua School Board Discusses Re-Scheduling

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. - The Chappaqua Central School District continued its discussion on the proposed middle school scheduling changes on Tuesday night at its Board of Education meeting.

The updated scheduling for the 2012-13 school year was last discussed publicly on Oct. 23 and Oct. 24 during Knowledge Cafés at Robert E. Bell Middle School. Superintendent Lyn McKay and outside scheduling associate Michael Rettig have since worked together on making slight alterations to the proposed changes based on feedback the district received at the sessions.

The alterations include making the lunch period longer. In the previously proposed schedules, models that featured seven 56-minute class periods only had a 30-minute lunch. They have now been changed to include 55-minute class periods and a 38-minute lunch.

"The feedback, particularly from the Knowledge Café, was so strong about wanting to ensure that the students have longer than a 30-minute lunch," said McKay. "Our parents felt very strongly that they wanted the students to have opportunities to have some recess, have some exercise, and I actually agree with them."

The first model showed no alterations from the previous presentation. The model is what the school currently uses, which is nine 40-minute periods and keeping two middle schools in the district. There would be no change in budget.

The second model would keep the nine 40-minute period model, but would split the schools into a fifth and sixth grade school, and a seventh and eighth grade school. Staffing would be reduced by two to three positions, but busing costs would increase by $200,000. This model is anticipated to save the district between $0-$100,000.

The third model proposes seven 55-minute class periods, one 38-minute lunch period, and would keep two middle schools in the district. Staffing would be reduced by five or six positions and busing costs would remain the same. This model is expected to save the district between $500,000-600,000.

The fourth model features the most radical change, as it proposes seven 55-minute class periods, one 38-minute lunch period, and would split the schools into a fifth and sixth grade school, and a seventh and eighth grade school. Staffing would be reduced by seven or eight positions while busing costs would increase by $200,000. The model’s anticipated savings is the same as the third model.

"There isn’t any one schedule that we’re going to suggest tonight that is perfect," said McKay. "They all have flaws and they all have strengths. It’s a matter of balance, and that’s what we wanted to discuss with you tonight."

McKay said that she is most in favor of the third model. She believes that students need longer time for "core" classes such as math, science, english and social studies, despite it coming at a cost to non-core classes like arts and physical education. She also does not want to split the schools, as she likes having students in one place for as long as possible, giving them fewer transition periods to deal with. Eric Byrne, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, agreed with McKay.

"They're in a period where they're trying to figure out who they are, what they believe in, what they like, what they don't like, what kind of persona do they want to give off to the rest of the world," said Byrne. "Having that stability of being in one community where adults know you over a longer period of time... it's really a positive thing for kids at this age level."

McKay said the biggest drawback to the longer core classes is the loss of a daily second language class. Language classes, like core classes, currently meet 180 times a year for 40 minutes. In the proposed third and fourth models, the language classes would meet 120 times a year for 55 minutes, which would be a reduction of ten hours over the course of the year.

The discussion on the models will continue next week when McKay and other administrative members meet with parents to gain more feedback. While she currently supports the third model, McKay said nothing is set in stone and could change her opinion if she hears overwhelming support for another model.

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