A proposed schedule change at Great Bend Middle School would allow students more flexibility in choosing courses, GBMS Principal David Reiser told the USD 428 Board of Education on Monday.
Reiser and others at the school described the proposal that they have been working on for the past two years. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed their progress but, “I think we are ready to move forward with this,” he said.
“Changing a schedule is never an easy task,” Reiser said. “There is no perfect schedule, so keep that in mind.”
However, when 36 teachers answered a survey about the proposal, most were in favor. Six were unsure and no one voted against adopting the schedule.
“The current schedule does not allow students to have any changes whatsoever,” he said, with the exception that they have a choice between physical education and weightlifting for eighth graders. “We want to encourage kids to want to come to school.” Offering more choices is one way to do that.
“It gives them a little more interest in their own learning,” committee member Jason Perry suggested.
The scheduling committee took turns explaining highlights of the proposal. Along with Reiser, its members are Tera Arnberger, PE teacher; Keith Moeder, seventh-grade math/pre-algebra; Jason Perry, eighth-grade social studies; Tami Schepmann, instructional coach; Kelly Strayer, principal’s secretary; JoAnn Suchy, choir teacher; Tish Warren, special services; and Brian Williams, counselor.
Band and orchestra students don’t have an opportunity at present to be in a study skills class. Under the proposed schedule, they will. Warren said special education and English learner students at present have limited time to meet with their provider, if at all. Under the proposal, those students will have an opportunity to have a study skills class with their provider, even if they are also in band or orchestra.
Schepmann said MTSS interventions – time focused on math or language arts skills for students who need individual help – now meet every other day but under the proposal they will meet every day.
Currently, seventh and eighth graders take choir all year, Suchy said. Under the proposal, choir is required for one semester in seventh grade and then it becomes an elective for seventh and eighth graders.
Seventh and eighth graders will be required to have one semester of PE or weights.
The core classes will still be taught but seventh-grade core classes will be offered when eighth-grade students are in electives and vice versa.
Certain activities could become elective courses. These include Music in Motion, Panther Talk (a news program by students), Women in Harmony, E-Gaming, Yearbook creation, Scholars Bowl and the JAG (Jobs for Americas Graduates) program that the district is adding this fall. Suchy noted that activities offered outside of the school day under the present schedule may limit the students who are able to participate. Music in Motion, for example, currently meets at 7 a.m.
“We have a whole lot more flexibility,” Suchy said of the proposed schedule.
Classes that will become electives are art, computers, Project Lead the Way, choir, physical education, weights, band, orchestra, science enrichment, social studies enrichment and language arts enrichment.
School board members had several questions about the proposal but voiced support. School board president Jacquie Disque said the flexibility might allow middle school students to begin to explore future career pathways, as they do in high school.
“You’ve done a lot of work on it,” Disque said to committee members. “I can see where students will be excited about it.”
The presentation was considered a “first reading” but board members considered approving it Monday evening. Board member Deanna Essmiller said a second reading would give the public time to weigh in. It was agreed to have this on the agenda for the luncheon meeting set for noon on April 27 at Great Bend High School, rather than waiting until the May meeting.
JAG-K coming to GBMS
The school board also voted Monday to expand the Jobs for Americas Graduates - Kansas (JAG-K) courses currently offered at GBHS. A JAG program will be offered at GBMS starting this fall.
JAG-K focuses on college preparedness, college visits, financial aid, and a post-gradution job market. Superintendent Khris Thexton said it has been a beneficial addition for GBHS students.
Essmiller agreed, saying, “We’ve seen the success in the program.”
Bringing the program to the middle school will require hiring a JAG-K specialist to teach it. Because JAG-K is primarily funded with a federal grant, the cost to the school district will be $11,220.