Sunday, July 29, 2007

Responses to Queries about the Fifth Grades at Thompson Middle School

In response to recent comments by Dr. Charles Shoemaker, the Newport Public School Committee Chair, regarding the proposed move of the fifth grades to Thompson Middle School, I emailed several questions to the superintendent and the School Committee members. Two replied; Jo Eva Gaines provided written answers to my queries (due to a prior commitment, I was unable to attend the special meeting on Thursday, July 26). The following is a summary of the Q&A:
§ Avoiding “transfer to the Middle School model,” the fifth grades will maintain the current practice of self-contained classes rather than the departmental approach utilized in the upper grades.
§ Even though there is no workable on-site playground area that could be reserved for the fifth graders, the modern, up-to-date gymnasium would be utilized. For my part, I might want to look at an area on the Central Street side of the complex, although its proximity to parking and the roadway might not be too practical.
§ Even though the fifth graders would be housed in the middle school, the teachers would not be compelled to secure middle school endorsement or certification, according to the RI Department of Education.
§ As music and fine arts educators are certified to teach kindergarten through Grade 12, “current staff” may provide instruction to the fifth graders. My initial question asked if those personnel assigned to the K-4 classes would be freed up to devote more time to the elementary youngsters. Perhaps scheduling would be simpler, after all.
§ Central Administration would be moved to the high school if new schools were built. The location of those offices would provide “a real-life view of the day-to-day workings of the school to administrators” and visitors (my view).
§ Consideration is being given to the serious concerns that some parents are already expressing about busing the 10-year old youngsters with the 13- and 14-year old eighth graders.

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