PROSPECT — A new class schedule will be in effect when students return to Long River Middle School after summer break.
Officials have been working for months to craft a schedule that is intended to create equity across the grades and provide more “21st century” learning opportunities for students.
They believe they have that now for the school, which serves students in grades sixth through eight from Beacon Falls and Prospect.
“I think it increases the minutes of instruction, breeds equity across disciplines and brings us current with school-to-career opportunities and experiences for our kids,” said Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin about the schedule.
Under the new schedule, each grade will have seven, 50-minute periods, not counting lunch. Currently, the number of periods vary for the grades, and so does the length of classes.
The new schedule eliminates the Pride WIN period, which is referred to colloquially as “flex time.” The period, which is now 35 minutes for sixth-graders and 30 minutes for seventh- and eighth-graders, is designed for students to get extra help from teachers or get a jump start on their homework. However, officials have said the period is not being fully utilized by students.
The new schedule embeds flex time at the end of classes.
Long River Principal Derek Muharem explained that students will be given about 8 minutes at the end of class to start their homework.
“We don’t want kids going home, starting their homework and having questions,” he said.
Muharem said starting homework in class gives students the opportunity to ask questions of their teachers. He added that teachers stay a half an hour after school every day if students need help.
Changes are also coming to the courses offered at Long River.
The computer app and family and consumer science courses, which are unified arts classes, will be eliminated. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and financial literacy classes will replace them. Social students will also replace geography in sixth grade.
Unified art classes will meet every day for one quarter of the year. Students will take physical education and music every other day for the full school year. Now, students take physical education and music for three-quarters of the year.
Students will have a third music class, digital music, to choose from, along with band and chorus.
A sixth grade academy class will be new next school year, as well.
Sixth grade doesn’t have a traditional world language class — they are exposed to world languages with the Rosetta Stone program during unified arts. That created a whole in the schedule, Muharem explained. He said officials saw it as an opportunity to teach sixth-graders some essential skills.
The sixth grade academy will cover topics like public speaking, organizational skills, current events, research skills and appropriate internet and digital practices. Muharem said these are skills that are taught in classes anyways. But, he added, it can save time in core classes by focusing on them for sixth-graders.
The sixth grade academy is also the time when sixth-graders, who met the criteria, will attend the talented and gifted program.
As officials worked on the new schedule, among the issues they had to deal with was how to fit in the talented and gifted program, which select students now attend during the Pride WIN period.
Seventh- and eighth-graders will attend the talented and gifted program on a rotating basis during core classes, Muharem said. He said these students will be responsible for making up any work missed.
Overall, Muharem said the new schedule encompasses best practices for middle school students and exposes them to current curriculum and 21st century learning skills.