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The program is for students through the eighth grade.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
The Roanoke School Board approved a proposal to increase class time for some city students on an opt-in basis with the goal of bolstering student achievement, even as some board members had concerns about cost.
But ultimately the board unanimously approved the initiative, RCPS+. The program will mean about six weeks of additional instruction in the summer for kindergarten through eighth-grade students to focus on reading and math.
The idea of additional class time was first brought up last month during a joint city council and school board meeting where, without firm details or a specific proposal, it created a kerfuffle among parents. They had questions and concerns about extending learning into the summer, potentially grinding summer plans to a halt.
The optional enrichment program will take the place of traditional summer school for kindergarten through eighth grade that focused on remediation. High school summer school will remain as is.
Superintendent Rita Bishop said RCPS+ will be open to all students, though she said educators will recommend it for some students.
According to a proposal given to the board, RCPS+ will seek to “accelerate rather than to remediate the learning of students at risk of school failure.” It will also have small class sizes and project-based learning, and students will ask each other questions, share opinions and reflect on learning.
It will cost about $1 million and likely involve 100 teachers. It will be triple the amount of time students have attended traditional remedial summer school offerings.
“I’m having a problem with the money piece,” school board member Lori Vaught said. “My heart knows this is absolutely without a doubt the right thing to do, but my head can’t get past the money.”
Board Chairman David Carson said he didn’t have difficulty accepting the recommendation and talked about the need for increased instruction.
“I think there are far greater costs for not moving forward,” he said.
Bishop said the school system must make significant instructional changes to continue moving forward with student achievement.
RCPS+ marks the second significant initiative the board has approved in as many weeks. On Jan. 31, officials signed off on a sweeping plan — which includes incentives such as performance and signing bonuses — aimed at retaining experienced, high-performing math teachers .
With the board’s approval Tuesday of RCPS+, school administration officials are now tasked with developing a specific curriculum for the program and hiring the staff. Officials will also later finalize a specific time frame. Bishop has asked that the program be either 25 or 30 days based on when school begins.
If the school system is able to begin before Labor Day, she proposed 25 days. But if school must begin after the holiday, she said 30 days would be more appropriate. State law stipulates that school must begin after the holiday unless school systems receive a waiver.
It is unclear if Roanoke will get to begin earlier next school year, though state House and Senate budgets do have provisions for the system to start early.
In other news, the board:
Bishop’s contract was last extended in March 2011. Carson said after the meeting that the terms and conditions of her employment and compensation will not change as part of the extension.
Bishop, who became superintendent in 2007, has been credited with increasing the system’s graduation rate and student achievement. During her tenure, she also has overseen the system’s first redistricting in decades and the privatization of the district’s transportation and nursing.
Officials got a brief overview of expected changes in revenues and expenditures in the next fiscal year and intend to discuss items in greater detail Feb. 26.
According to current figures, officials anticipate an increase in revenues of about $2.7 million in the next fiscal year. They also estimate an increase in expenditures of about $10.7 million from what is being spent in the current fiscal year. Officials will likely close the gap with money from the system’s fund balance.
No one spoke at Tuesday’s public hearing.
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