Students, parents weigh in on middle school STEM proposal

This Monday, Nov. 25, the Board of Education [BOE] had planned on voting on expanding engineering in the middle schools via the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program. But, after a meeting which more than 40 people attended and 16 spoke on the proposal, the board, in light of all the questions and differing opinions, decided to postpone a decision.

The proposal would expand engineering from the current one period a week for eighth graders to two a week for eighth graders and one a week for sixth and seventh graders. To make room for these new courses, the proposal cuts computer classes altogether, sixth grade general music and eighth grade drama and presentation skills.

Many students and parents argued that the loss of the eighth grade drama and presentation skills would really hurt students.

Cutting drama would be “truly a loss,” parent Lisa Mezoff said. Another parent, Greg Greta, agreed,“the idea that we can compensate for this cut is disingenuous.” Many students active in Players, Staples theater organization, also spoke.

Director of Secondary Education Lisabeth Comm noted that the proposal only cut 12 hours of presentation skills over the course of three years.

Not all students are interested in engineering, some said. According to Theo Koskoff, an eighth grader, “It’s more often like a study hall.”

Several parents argued in favor of the proposal as well. The board had originally planned to vote on the issue but postponed its vote until its next meeting, Monday, Dec. 2.

“The board basically has to pick its poison here,” BOE member Michael Gordon said.

The proposal would also expand presentation skills in sixth grade from two periods a week for one quarter to one period a week for the year as well as move music and technology from once a week to twice a week in sixth grade. The proposal would create a “push in” model for computer classes, in which computer teachers come to regular classes to teach when the students are doing something that requires technology, to the sixth and seventh grades that is already in place in eighth grade and kindergarten through fifth grade.