MAUMS seeks advisory board for upcoming changes

BRISTOL — A major restructuring of the Mount Abraham Union Middle School is in the works for the start of the 2014-2015 academic year, and school officials are seeking community members to form an advisory board as the changes are developed and implemented.

“We have a whole year to really think through the ramifications and implications of these changes,” said Ellen Repstad, a middle school administrator at Mount Abraham, adding that the launch of the advisory committee had been timed to ensure that community input and feedback could be built into the development of the final middle school structure.

The changes have been designed to give teachers maximum flexibility to schedule lessons based on what they feel is most productive for each student or group of students, according to Repstad.

“We’re trying to give teachers the flexibility they need,” she said.

Instead of a traditional block schedule, in which students are given one hour per subject, teachers will have three-and-a-half hour blocks morning and afternoon and may choose when to transition students from one subject to the next.

“They don’t have to stop a student from working on a math project because the bell rang and he needs to go to social studies class,” Repstad said.

Teachers will also not be assigned a traditional class. Rather, a set of teachers will be responsible for the seventh-grade “team” and another set of teachers for the eighth-graders. Those teachers, along with special educators and other specialists, may choose to group clusters of students according to their need and proficiency level, with no strict limitation on the amount of time spent on one lesson. The size of the group is also flexible, as Mount Abraham’s middle school facility includes spaces twice the size of normal classrooms to allow for class size flexibility.

“All contents will be integrated,” Repstad said of the curriculum (with the exception of math).

The new structure is meant to further students’ ability to succeed in five areas of competency identified by the school board and administration by the time they graduate from Mount Abraham’s middle and high school programs: communication, collaboration, problem solving, personal development/self-awareness, and global citizenship.

Repstad stressed that there will be no staff positions eliminated and the student-teacher ratio will not change.

“It is just when and how teachers are able to interact with students that’s changing,” Repstad said.

Looking forward, the school hopes that the advisory board of teachers, students, administrators and community members will play a role on a number of levels. Repstad says that community input would help teachers and administrators think outside the box, connect with community organizations and brainstorm new strategies and ideas.

And those who want a spot on the advisory committee had better hop to it. Repstad said that just 24 hours after posting a request for applications online, she had received over 10 responses.

“We are very, very excited about the response,” she said.

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