With a continuous influx of students and mounting state requirements affecting the classroom, the Springs School Board last week briefly discussed the possibility of bringing back a nine-period day for its middle school students.
Doing so could help make sure students fulfill state requirements without missing important parts of their day. But officials say it’s not that easy to do with so many students in one building.
“It complicates the elementary and middle schools operating under one roof,” said Board President Elizabeth Mendelman.
To figure out the school’s options, the School Board decided to invite its consultant, Burton, Behrendt and Smith of Patchogue, to its December 8 board meeting to discuss what could be done in the short term to meet the school’s space needs.
With so many students and sections, finding the space for more classes could prove to be a difficult task, which is why BBS, which presented its long-term vision for spacing and layout at the school back in June, is needed to discuss possible short-term ideas to solve the lack of space.
According to school officials, there are 704 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, not including the 41 pre-kindergarten students at Most Holy Trinity Church. In total, the district is responsible for 1,098 students enrolled in public, charter and private schools and at Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
According to Ms. Mendelman, BOCES had predicted declining enrollment, but said that is not the case. BOCES predicted that in 2016 the school would peak at 700 students—but it has already surpassed that number.
Despite the increasing enrollment, school officials still have to cater to the needs of every child, including those who need to be pulled out for extra help or extra learning to meet state requirements. In most cases, students who get extra help are pulled out of classes like physical education and art.
This is becoming a reality for more students, according to Ms. Mendelman, because there are state-mandated units of study for each grade, and now the Common Core curriculum, as well as requirements for high school that students must meet. This starts as early as sixth grade.
The students are still required to take “specials” classes like gym and art, and extending the day to nine periods could allow them to get the help they need without skipping the necessary classes. Increasing the number of periods in the school day, however, would mean shorter individual classes so as not to extend the school day: Each 49-minute class would be shortened by seven minutes, and time is already short, given the time it takes to start class and pack up, according to school officials.
The School Board and the school’s scheduling committee have not talked about the possibility of extending the school day, but Project MOST, a three-hour after-school program, operates on school grounds.
In June, BBS presented its proposal to create a clear distinction between the elementary school and the middle school by extending classrooms off the back of the school by converting space in the main building into classrooms and adding on. There would also be a middle school gym and lockers added as well. But these changes would take years and the district is beginning to see the need now.
“The first group we need to educate [about the spatial needs] is the parents,” said fifth grade teacher Tracey Frazier. “They don’t see the whole school moving … the wear and the tear and the use of bathrooms or the number of lockers. The hallways are not that wide. It’s become very, very crowded. It’s a noisy building with so many little bodies, and big bodies, in this building.”