The Coventry School Committee approved curriculum changes at its Tuesday night meeting that will emphasize integration of more math and technology skills for students next year.
In a 3-1 decision – Committee member Thomas A. Hetherman (District 1) voted against – the council adopted four recommendations by the district’s Curriculum Council that, according to Supt. Michael Convery, will have no fiscal impact on schools.
The first two changes will affect the high school programs:
Digital Media courses at the high school will be offered as a for-credit course beginning with freshman for technologically advanced students
Staff will restructure career and technical programs at the high school to offer increased mathematical support to students.
“The high school has been working on this with the ultimate goal that at the end of three-year programs in some of those fields, kids will be able to access one math-related credit,” said James Erinakes, assistant superintendent.
In the middle school, the committee decided to drop keyboard classes and replace it with a video game creation program.
“I’m fine with everything except for dropping keyboarding,” said Hetherman, who likened eliminating keyboard instruction with handwriting in schools. “I think we need to focus on the basics.”
Keyboarding skills are currently taught in the eighth grade and skill retention is low, said Convery, because students begin using and forming habits with technology much earlier.
“Culturally there is such a change in what these kids are introduced to early we have to do a better job finding out when kids start using the technology and integrate it when they are first using it,” agreed Erinakes. “Integrate prior to them learning habits that render the (keyboarding) curriculum useless because learning it in the eighth grade is, I think, useless.”
The New England Institute of Technology in East Greenwich, which offers a similar program, will work with the middle school to develop content and on equipment needs.
“Fiscally you just can’t add something without dropping something else,” said Convery.
In other business:
Career & Tech Regulations
The committee approved a resolution opposing proposed changes to regulations governing career and technical education in the state until the Board of Regents can conduct further study. A decision on the changes could be made at the Regent’s Jan. 5 meeting, but Coventry’s fiscal and administrative personnel are confused how the town's career and technical center might be affected.
Committee members worried the state Department of Education-approved courses could limit student choice in which career program they enter and in turn limit variety of competencies offered at the career and technical centers. Administrators also identified transportation as a possible problem under RIDE’s plan.
“The quality of planning for this change is a problem,” agreed Erinakes.
Volunteer Policy Update
Convery gave an update on the volunteer policy that was updated on Oct. 25. He said All Bureau of Criminal Information checks, which are required for all volunteers, were being reimbursed. Volunteers for any of the district’s schools need updated information checks every time their child switches schools. Convery said volunteers should allow two weeks for processing of their applications before they can be active volunteers in schools or on field trips because of new administrative procedures.
Trout Unlimited’s Narragansett chapter awarded high school biology teacher Peter Stetson the Lawson Cary Conservation Award. The $1,500 scholarship will help Stetson’s students hatch and raise trout to learn about conservation. Every year students hatch trout in their in-class 1,000-gallon tank and release about 60 percent of the fish into Carbuncle Pond.
The next School Committee meeting will be held at Blackrock Elementary School on Jan. 10.