Reform talk

School district officials outline upcoming changes to curriculum

Warren Area High School is almost done with its structural renovation. Next, it will undergo changes at the instructional level as Warren County School District ushers in education reform.

Administrators in Warren County School District have been talking about high school reform for almost a decade.

“What can we do to continue to improve?” Supervisor of Elementary Education Eric Mineweaser asked. “To give students the best opportunities we can?”

That kind of question has driven years of research back to 2009.

The committee of teachers, building and central office administrators, and board members is no longer talking about high school reform. The changes are too big for that. The reform will reach through the middle and elementary levels.

“All of the decisions are student driven,” Mineweaser said. “What’s best for kids.”

“We wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think it was worth doing,” Director of Administrative Support Services Gary Weber said. “We want to engage students in the curriculum.”

The committee in charge of designing the reforms is looking for that most elusive thing — more time.

“We want to give them more time with the teachers in the classroom,” Mineweaser said. “High school wanted time.”

Not just in the core classes — math, English, science, and social studies — but in all classes, including electives.

More time in classes generally means fewer classes.

“We looked at a million schedules,” Mineweaser said. “We had a lot of different schedules on the table.”

The committee eventually settled on one. They didn’t have to look to far to find it.

Teachers and administrators had been seeing exceptional scores at the middle level.

“We were cognizant that there were good things coming out of the middle level,” Weber said.

“What can the high school do to replicate what the middle level’s doing in order to improve?” Mineweaser asked. “We wanted to get the high school on the same page as the middle level.”

Warren County School District’s high schools will be moving to a seven-period day with 50 minutes per period.

Grades six through eight currently have longer periods for core classes. That will change as periods become a uniform 50 minutes to match the high schools.

There will be longer periods in some schools, shorter periods in others, and altered schedules everywhere. There will be new required classes. There will be more time for some electives.

Courses in which Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) are brought together are in the pipeline. Career education will enter into new testing requirements. Students will be in computer classrooms at younger ages. The committee also wants to respond to epidemic obesity by providing more time in physical education.

For now, the schedule changes and the impacts and perceived impacts to specials will be the most visible changes.

The school board and administration have already fielded concerns about losing some art and music time at the elementary level.

“We’re not gutting the arts,” Mineweaser said. “The schedule change is just one piece of the puzzle.”

“We wanted to provide choice for students at the middle level,” Weber said. “The committee felt students should have some choice.”

“Right now in the middle level you don’t have any choices,” Mineweaser said. “Band, choir, exploratory. That’s the only choice.”

There will be fewer mandated hours in art, library, music, and technology at the middle level but many more elective hours available in those courses and others.

The reform process has already begun.

The school board approved some key items, including credits required for high school graduation, at its last meeting.