UCF School District mulls move to trimester schedule for elementary schools
● By J. Chambless
The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District administration is backing a plan that would end the long-standing practice of having four marking periods each year for elementary school students.
At a meeting of the board's Curriculum and Educational Technology Committee on March 9, the “trimester” concept was discussed by members of the adminstration and school board. Currently, there are four marking periods of about 45 school days each. The suggested change to three marking periods of about 60 school days each has been adopted in nearby districts such as Avon Grove, Kennett, Downingtown, Great Valley and others, and the reaction has been very favorable, according to Ken Batchelor, the assistant to the superintendent.
“We see this as something that makes sense for us as a district, and as something we should move toward,” Batchelor said.
The advantages, according to John Nolen, the director of curriculum and instruction, are that the trimester plan allows more instructional time instead of testing time, adding up to about three more instructional days per year. “Wherever we can grab that time, I feel strongly that we should,” Nolen said.
In addition, teachers have always said that second marking period grades are hard to determine because the marking period ends in the third week of January, after the holiday break, half-days and school programs have shortened the instructional schedule, so student progress is more difficult to evaluate.
“We feel that going to a trimester plan would allow higher quality information to be given on each report card,” Nolen said.
There will be no calendar changes required, and the trimester schedule could start as early as next fall, if approved by the board. The trimester plan is only suggested for elementary schools, for grades K-5. The board and adminsitration will address the issue more formally at their April curriculum meeting.
Rick Hostetler, the supervisor of building and grounds, delivered a thorough report on the planned renovations at Patton Middle School, which began last year and will continue as part of the district's 10-year plan. Work this summer will focus on the administration area, and include the closure of the school's current lobby and the construction of a new entrance, to be located on the corner of the building, closer to Route 82, Hostetler said.
The entrance is similar to that of the Unionville High School building next door. There will be a vestibule and a security booth where visitors will need to check in before they can pass through secure doors into the building. The current lobby is wide open, and while there is a security guard posted there during school hours, Hostetler said the building lacks sufficient security measures.
The current lobby area will be reconfigured as part of a suite of offices, guidance offices and nurse's rooms that will bring the staff and administration closer together and increase efficiency, according to Patton principal Timothy Hoffman, who was at the meeting. "The things we wanted to focus on with this renovation were safety and security, and this is much better. This will be an extremely secure building," Hoffman said.
On the second floor of the school, there will be an expanded space for the strings program, which has grown in popularity and needs a space of its own, Hoffman said. Currently, students are forced to store their instruments in the hallway. The band room has been renovated with new lights and carpeting, the old risers have been removed, and there will be new storage areas for instruments.
There will be two new health classrooms as well, Hostetler said. The classes are currently being held at the back of the auditorium and in a former faculty dining room because of lack of proper space.
Hostetler said work on the health and band rooms will begin the day after classes end in June, and should be completed before school resumes in September. The work on the administration area and entrance should be completed by the end of 2015.
The board received a bid from the Wolfington Body Company to provide five full-size school buses for a total of $402,285 after trade-ins, with extended warranties that the administration is recommending because of the increasing costs of servicing the more complex vehicles in recent years. One bus will be paid for out of this year's budget, and four will be paid for in the 2015-16 budget. The bid will be voted on at next month's board meeting.
Board member Michael Rock presented a summary of Gov. Wolf's proposed budget, which is proposing a state income tax increase from 3.07 percent to 3.7 percent, and a state sales tax increase from 6 percent to 6.6 percent. The proposed budget also seeks a $3.8 billion reduction in property taxes, and an additional $1 billion allocated to education in 2015-16. The budget also proposes funding $3 billion in pension debt refinancing through increased profts achieved by modernizing liquor sales in the state.
Admitting that, "It probably has a snowball's chance in heck of getting passed," Rock did praise the budget's proposed property tax relief for many families in the state, as well as the proposed $4,908,575 in total state funding for schools that would be provided in 2015-16.
Robert Cochran, the district's director of business and operations, said Wolf "has a steep hill to climb because of the legislation he's up against."
Unionville-Chadds Ford, being located in one of the state's wealthier districts, would probably not share in any state funding increases, according to superintendent John Sanville. "We're not going to see substantially more money from the state," he said. "We should plan on working with what we have this year."
For more information, and a schedule of upcoming meetings, visit www.ucfsd.org.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.