Changes to the class schedules of Columbia County elementary schools would more evenly distribute arts and gym teachers while eliminating some of their positions.
Set to begin next school year, the new class schedules add more time for core classes, set aside time for specialized courses for struggling and gifted pupils, and establish blocks of time for teacher collaboration.
The schedule also shares physical education, art and music teachers among schools. School officials believe they can eliminate five full-time teaching positions and one part-time position for those enrichment courses.
Nixing those positions could provide a significant savings for the cash-strapped school system, and all of the jobs would be eliminated through attrition, Superintendent Charles Nagle told the school board during a Wednesday meeting.
But fewer teachers won't rob pupils of enrichment opportunities, said Michele Sherman, the school system's director of elementary student learning and architect of the new scheduling plan.
Sherman's model abandons the typical five-day enrichment schedule and adds a sixth day to the schedule rotation for most schools. During those six days, pupils will attend P.E. on three of the days; receive art instruction one day; receive music instruction one day; and rotate visits to the media center, guidance and computer labs on the sixth day.
Larger schools might move to an eight-day schedule rotation, which would include four days of P.E., a day of music, a day of art, a day for the media center and a day for guidance.
Those enrichment sessions will last at least 45 minutes, which is 15 minutes more than the current county minimum.
Under the new schedule, most pupils also will receive a significant number of added minutes for studying language arts and math. For example, kindergartners now get 120 minutes of English instruction and 30 minutes of math each school day. Next school year, they'll receive 180 minutes of English and a hour of math, according to a presentation Sherman gave school trustees.
Officials last altered the elementary schedule in 2002. Then, as now, system officials believed enrichment teachers in larger schools were handling far larger numbers of pupils than teachers in smaller elementary schools. One music teacher in a small school might have 400 pupils, but that same teacher in a large school might have double that number.
In 2002, parents of pupils in less-populated schools protested the changes. Those parents wanted every school to have at least one full-time art, music and P.E. teacher.
The board compromised by allotting an enrichment teacher for every eight classroom teachers at any school.
Thus far, the only complaints about the new schedules have come from media specialists, saying schedules should be more flexible regarding media center visits.
Sherman said she believes she has addressed those issues by including media specialists in the collaborative planning sessions of teachers.
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