Elementary school Spanish at R. Roger Rowe School will be replaced with a computer science class this school year, according to Interim Superintendent Kim Pinkerton.
Spanish was added to the elementary school wheel in 2015 at the urging of parents and for the last three years it has been offered as an introductory-only course. Students are required to take Spanish 1 in the sixth grade.
For the first two years, Spanish was held two times a week 12 weeks in a rotation. Pinkerton noted that some K-5 students would have it in the beginning of the year in second grade as a rotation and not again until the end of their third grade year so there was sometimes a large gap in instructional time. Last year Pinkerton adjusted the schedule to one time a week for 38 weeks.
The challenges for the elementary Spanish program at Rowe have always been around fitting the language into a curriculum that is already packed and offering it with enough frequency for mastery or retention.
“Feedback that we’ve received is that there is limited content retention and re-teaching does occur each year in the elementary school as well as in Spanish 1,” said Pinkerton at the Aug. 17 board meeting. “We don’t believe that there is marked benefit related to knowledge growth over time in terms of acquiring the language of Spanish. Students appear to be less interested in Spanish than in their other enrichment choices.”
The new computer science class will serve as the alternative enrichment course and as opposed to being an introductory course, students would receive grade-specific standards and mastery, preparing them for middle school with Tech 21 science teacher Dave Warner.
“Alternative enrichments are growing in need in terms of data science,” said Pinkerton, referencing artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning. “(The enrichment course) can give our kids a leg up not only in this field here and now but also for college and beyond.”
Advanced math teacher Caitlin Rhodes has been tapped to use her “excitement and expertise” to develop the computer science course for first grade through fifth grade, Pinkerton said, using free curricula from code.org and Apple.
“There is excitement for STEAM programming here at our school and the ability to integrate with our current teachers,” Pinkerton said.
Tutorial period to continue for Rowe Middle School students
R. Roger Rowe Middle School Principal Garrett Corduan is looking to build on the success of last year’s inaugural tutorial period.
For the 2017-18 school year, the middle school bell schedule was changed to allow for more elective options for students and provide an hour and 15 minute tutorial period for academic support within the school day. The tutorial period allowed the school to address some feedback they had received that students had too much homework and that time to connect with their teachers was limited, Corduan said.
Corduan said tutorial allows students to complete assignments during school time and reduces the need for tutors by allowing students to visit with teachers in classes where they feel they needed extra help or instruction.
“It was life-changing for the students but also for the teachers,” Corduan said, noting it reinforced the need for teachers to go over concepts more thoroughly and encouraged teachers to reach out to students more.
A survey at the end of the year showed that 96 percent of students said it helped with homework and 77 percent of seventh and eighth graders said it helped them be more successful in school.
“It was so much better, I wish we had it every year,” one student wrote.
Per the survey results, sixth graders used tutorial the most for homework and eighth graders used the time most to get help from teachers. Seventh graders used it the most to study for quizzes and tests. The period also gave students time to work on group projects and paired students as “teams” to form connections and build school spirit.
“It’s been a good add for middle school and something that has always been on my mind for at least 10 years,” Corduan said.
District brings back third custodian position
The Rancho Santa Fe School District approved adding a third custodial position, at the request of Interim Superintendent Kim Pinkerton. Historically the district had three evening custodians but after one left last year, the district opted not to replace the position and continued on with just two as a cost-saving measure.
“Two people did not maintain the kind of facility that I expect it to be maintained,” Pinkerton said. “In an attempt to save money, I don’t want there to be concerns around our student health and safety as well as general wear and tear on our facilities…it’s not really a cost-saving measure, it’s actually an increase in cost over time if can’t maintain the school environment.”
At the end of last year, the two custodians were cleaning the rooms and tables every other day and vacuuming twice a week. Pinkerton said she got a lot of feedback from parents and teachers noticing the difference at the end of last year, as did board member Tom Barton.
With a third custodian, there would be daily cleaning as well as general maintenance of the property and facilities
.“I think the school should be noticeably spotless,” RSF School District Board President Tyler Seltzer said, in favor of bringing back the position.
Board Clerk Sarah Neal had some concerns about the ongoing costs as in June the board approved a 2018-19 budget that projected to deficit spend by $429,060. Neal said that the district cannot continue to spend out of budget and the upcoming school year will be the year to re-evaluate a lot of things and make some hard decisions.
“The cleanliness of classrooms is most important, it’s where our kids are all the time,” Pinkerton said. “Yes, we want the exterior to look very nice and our facilities to be maintained but for the health and wellbeing of students as well as just general cleanliness, it’s very important.”