Transition part of local learning

By Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers

In a little more than two weeks, area students will return to school. Awaiting some are significant changes. Here is a closer view of alterations in area school districts.

Clovis High School
Tradition returns — in the form of scheduling, at least.

At the high school, students will return to a traditional six-period day. That means students will attend six classes per day, which last for 55 minutes each, and bid adieu to the block schedule, under which classes lasted for 90 minutes.

“Schedules,” Clovis High School Principal Jody Balch said, “are just tools.”

Clovis High School faculty and staff are prepared for the schedule transition, according to Balch.

Students, the principal said, may notice they have less time between classes and elective courses will be slightly more crowded.

Electives least popular among students were dropped this year, he said.

The schedule change was fueled by a need to cut costs, as well as lackluster student performance under the block schedule, according to Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm. The more thrifty schedule, she has said, will help the district recover funds lost as a result of unfunded state-mandated salary increases.

The new schedule, however, isn’t the only change at the high school.

On Wednesday mornings, teachers will attend hour-long instructional sessions, separating into learning communities, Balch said.

A study hall will be offered to students during that hour, he said.
“What can we do for kids who are not getting it? That is what we need to focus on,” Balch said.

The Wednesday program aims to improve student performance by creating uniform student and teacher assessments, according to Balch.

Bella Vista Arts Academy
Alan Hill is entering the sixth grade. The elementary school he has long attended will be a bit different next year, as school board members voted last November to merge Lincoln-Jackson Arts Academy with Bella Vista Elementary.

Alan is taking the merger in stride.

“I’m feeling happy about it. I can learn more stuff,” he said, under the shade of a tree on the Bella Vista campus.

His younger brother, Terry, interjected, “I feel pretty good. I want to learn math and science, but I can’t believe,” he stressed, “we are going to have a dance class.”
Not everyone involved in the merger has discussed it with the ease of Terry and Alan.

A group of parents from both schools protested the merger, but school officials maintained it would allow the award-winning arts-infused curriculum originated at Lincoln-Jackson to reach more students. The Bella Vista campus has room for expansion, whereas Lincoln-Jackson is hemmed in by homes and a highway.

The merger will also save the district money during a tight budget year, school officials have said.

Teams of parents, teachers and students from Bella Vista and Lincoln-Jackson met regularly over the summer to ease the transition for both communities, according to Bella Vista Arts Academy Principal Shelly Norris.

Lincoln-Jackson teachers hashed out the arts-infused philosophy, which incorporates art into all subjects, with their new colleagues, Shelly said.

“We are trying to find a middle ground,” Bella Vista Principal Adan Estrada previously told the News Journal, “on where we will meet to include all aspects of what Bella Vista has to offer and what Lincoln-Jackson has to offer.”

Portales Municipal Schools
Michael Terry, James Elementary School principal, said parents will see a new look to the front of the school with the addition of a sign showing information about school activities in marquee lights. Terry said the marquee sign should be up by Aug. 22

Inside the school halls, Terry said there will be more focus on improving reading skills by designating 45 more minutes to teaching reading.

He said there will be remedial reading intervention for 45 minutes for those who are below reading levels. Those who are at or above reading levels will have enrichment reading for 45 minutes. Terry said science and social skills will be taught during reading classes to make up for the time.

Elida Municipal Schools
Jim Daugherty will take the reins of the high school. The recently completed multi-purpose building will be in use.

Floyd Municipal Schools
Floyd Schools are switching to a four-day school week.

Freedom Newspapers writers Karl Terry and Tonya Parra contributed to this report.