Berkeley Heights School Board Agrees to 'Rotate and Drop' Schedule Next Year at Columbia Middle School

Band Director Nick O’Sullivan and members of the Governor Livingston High School Highlander Band are recognized during the Dec. 13 Board of Education meeting for being the 2012 Group 1 Open Atlantic Coast Champions. Credits: Deb Dawson
Band Director Nick O’Sullivan and members of the Governor Livingston High School Highlander Band are recognized during the Dec. 13 Board of Education meeting for being the 2012 Group 1 Open Atlantic Coast Champions. Credits: Deb Dawson

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Columbia Middle School (CMS) students will follow a “rotate and drop” schedule next year, just like the one at Governor Livingston. The Board of Education unanimously approved the measure after a convincing presentation by CMS Principal Frank Geiger and Assistant Principal Grace Acosta at the board’s Thursday, Dec. 13 meeting.

The schedule will change from eight 46-minute periods per day to six with 57 minutes each. Two of the classes offered now in the eight-period day will be “dropped” to the next day on a rotating four-day schedule with a longer common lunch period each day, when all grades will be offered lunch during the same 49-minute time period. Lunch will offer the opportunity for students to eat as well as to take advantage of a variety of enrichment opportunities. Lunch is now 30 minutes.

There will be no more “opportunity periods” at the start of each day. The opportunity periods are used as an extension of homeroom. Students have access to teachers but are not allowed to do homework. These will be replaced by “enrichment” periods (EP), sometimes scheduled around lunch, which will include cycle classes and a scheduled
advisory cycle, world languages for sixth graders, time to complete homework, practices for band and chorus when the enrichment period falls adjacent to lunch, and EP’s will continue to run concurrently with the grade level teaching teams so children can go to teachers for help.

Geiger said, “Governor Livingston students concur it is an awesome schedule. We keep a consistent scheduling, recognizing that each class has value.”

These are the student advantages outlined by Geiger:

• More hands-on labs and fewer teacher demonstrations
• More time to get one-on-one time with the teacher
• More opportunity to explore and collaborate in small groups
• Greater access to the building’s technology – Geiger noted most students have not sat down at a computer during a timed event. He said online testing is coming.
• Students experience classes at different times of the day
• Students seeing six classes a day versus seven or eight in the resent schedule allows them to better focus on each class
• Less of the day is spent in transition from room to room, and
• Fewer classes each day = less evening prep time, fewer concerns and reduced anxiety.

Teacher advantages include increased opportunity to differentiate instruction while seeking answers to the essential questions allowing opportunities for whole group, small group and individual instruction; quality of work over quantity of work, greater time for collaborative thinking and teaching opportunities.

Also, students will be seen at different times of the day. Sixth grade teachers will be teaching a single class, instead of two, so they will be able to develop a greater expertise in a specific content. There will be more time to allow for more engaging hands-on experiences and labs. And, more time to engage students to explore and discover.

Geiger said he spoke with many middle school administrators who currently have a rotate and drop schedule in place, including Watchung Middle School, which has the mirror image of the schedule proposed for Columbia Middle School.

“It’s well-tested,” Geiger said. “In the 60s it was know as flexible schedules. Kids have time to do things during the day that they don’t have after school.” He said the club offerings during the longer lunch period will be considerable including art club, chorus, drama, a drummers club, French club, future film makers club, golf club, jazz band, knowledge masters, “Men in Black” boys’ chorus, science club, school newspaper, Spanish club, student
government, vocal ensemble, a yearbook club and more. Some school enrichment activities will also continue after school, such as the drama club.

The library and computer labs will also be open during lunch, and supervised. There will be quiet rooms for homework and reading, and others to complete projects with partners. Grade-level and multi-grade level guidance groups will also meet during this time. Offerings may change as both students and teachers offer suggestions and opinions.

Geiger said the rotate and drop schedule will cost some money. Recurring costs will be about $100,000. They include staff increase of one sixth grade teacher, and depending upon the number of students who request these enrichment classes, world language teachers, physical education and health teachers and new club advisors. He noted the allotment on teacher duty periods during lunch will likely reduce the present supervision expense.

One-time costs are estimated at $21,000 for additional lunch tables and materials to protect the floors. Sixth grade students will be eating in the cafeteria and seventh and eighth graders will eat in the Gold Gym. Both hot and cold lunches will continue to be offered.

Geiger said, “I believe firmly that the benefits far offset the costs,” and the entire school board agreed heartily.

In other business:

  • The Governor Livingston High School Band was recognized for being the 2012 Group 1 Open Atlantic Coast champions. There are 43 students in the band who competed against 26 other bands for the honor. They took first place in the Music Category as well.
  • The 2011-12 school audit went extremely well. Auditor Charles Heard Jr. said, “I’m happy to say this year we have no recommendations and no findings to report.”
  • Board member Doug Reinstein reported an agreement has been reached between the Board of Education and the Berkeley Heights Teachers’ Association. It is a three-year contract covering July 1, 2012 through June 30 2015. He said highlights of the agreement include teacher raises - teachers will be receiving six percent over three years annualized to two percent each year. A Healthcare Savings Account will be offered to which the board will contribute 75 percent. And, all teachers will begin contributing to their healthcare this year using a sliding scale to over four years to determine the amount.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Pieces of Time: Applause Rings Out In Two Columbia Middle School Classrooms

February 23, 2018

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Thursday night, the mass murder of students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, Feb. 14, seemed to be on everyone’s mind at the Board of Education meeting.

The board observed a moment of silence following the Pledge of Allegiance for the 17 people killed and 14 wounded in the shooting, as well as ...

Local Advisor Celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the Roth IRA

BASKING RIDGE, NJ - 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the Roth IRA. First made available to American investors in 1998, a Roth IRA is an individual retirement account that is funded with after-tax dollars and provides tax-free growth and income for retirement.

In honor of this significant milestone, Walter Pardo, CEO/Certified Wealth Strategist at Wealth ...

New Providence High School Presents The Addams Family -Tickets are Now On Sale

February 23, 2018

The Addams Family, who first came to life in the 1960s television series, will come back to life and take the stage at New Providence High School in March in a comedic musical twist on the classic story and characters.  Morticia, Gomez, Wednesday, Grandma, Fester, and Lurch, along with new characters and a full cast of Addams Ancestors will bring the creepy, kooky, all together ooky ...

WFP Tax Partners Walks You Through 4 Step Tax Return Process

Over 80% of Tax Returns Have Errors or Missed Deductions. You're Probably Paying More Than Your Fair Share in Taxes

BASKING RIDGE, NJ - Tax returns certainly give a clear picture of the past year, but WFP Tax Partners believes it's wise to strategize for the current year to have a plan for moving forward. 

At your tax appointment, they ...

Reminder: Free Wellness Program for Union County Military Women

All Union County women with military service – veterans, active duty and reserve – are invited to join “Boots 2 Heels,” a free event designed to foster wellness and connect women with resources and guidance for empowerment. Boots 2 Heels will be held on Saturday, February 24 at the Westfield Armory, located at 500 Rahway Avenue in Westfield.

The event is free but ...

CSA's 5th Annual Pasta Dinner Fundraiser Set for Sunday

Is everyone ready to come together as a community and break bread to support the CSA? It's time for The Community Service Association of New Providence's 5th Annual Pasta & Meatball Dinner! This fun, family-friendly event will take place on Sunday, Feb. 25, at the DeCorso Community Center, 15 East Fourth Street, New Providence. Pasta, meatballs, and dessert will be served from 3-7 ...

Colleen Mahr Has Paid Her Dues, Earned Peoples’ Trust, and Left a Track Record of Success

February 20, 2018

Dear Editor:

As a 26-year-old Scotch Plains resident who cares more about the well-being of our town than about local politics, I am extremely disappointed that the Scotch Plains Democratic Committee leadership has decided to abandon Colleen Mahr in her run for Chair of the Union County Democratic Committee.

Mahr, who as Mayor of Fanwood for 15 years has worked closely with Scotch Plains ...

We Need More Women Like Colleen Mahr in Municipal, County and State Government

Dear Editor:

I’m proud to support Colleen Mahr for Chair of the Union County Democratic Committee  (UCDC) and am encouraging my Scotch Plains peers to join me.

I was a first time candidate wanting to make a difference in my hometown of Scotch Plains, when Mayor Mahr of neighboring Fanwood stepped in to help me campaign and win my election to be Councilwoman three years ago.

Democratic Party Would Be Making a Big Mistake by Not Recognizing Colleen Mahr's Talents

Dear Editor:

Mayor Colleen Mahr has been a valuable friend to the Township of Cranford. Whether it’s offering advice and assistance during devastating flood cleanup, supporting the Mayor's Council on the Rahway River, or her insight and assistance in meeting our affordable housing obligations, Mayor Mahr is always there for Cranford.

Colleen’s fairness and integrity is ...

Chatham Borough Police Chief Crosson has Retired; Captain Gibbons is Acting Commander

February 12, 2018

CHATHAM, NJ - Phil Crosson Jr., who has been a member of the Chatham Borough Police Department since 1992, retired from his position as the police chief on Feb. 1.

"It came on pretty quickly," Crosson said when reached by phone on Sunday. "I was on vacation for six weeks and I bought a business. I came back for one day and retired."

According to Crosson, ...

‘Reefer Madness’ Comes to Chatham Borough Council; Cannabis Advocates Make Pitch for Chatham Marijuana Shop

February 14, 2018

CHATHAM, NJ - A group of pro-cannabis activists came to the Borough of Chatham Council meeting on Monday night and used the public commentary portion of the meeting to ask the council to support a marijuana dispensary in town.

The advocates, who say they have attended more than 80 town meetings to inform about the benefits of medical cannabis, mentioned the 1936 movie "Reefer ...

Upcoming Events

Fri, February 23

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: Volunteer Art Show!

Arts & Entertainment Green


Fri, February 23, 6:30 PM

Union County Vocational Technical Schools, West Hall Cafeteria, Scotch Plains

Union County Magnet High School Silent Auction

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Sat, February 24

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: Volunteer Art Show!

Arts & Entertainment Green

Sat, February 24, 10:00 AM

Municipal Court Room/Council Chambers, BERKELEY HEIGHTS

Return Berkeley Heights Public Library's Books, ...


Sat, February 24, 3:00 PM

White Tiger Dojo, Berkeley Heights

White Tiger Dojo Hosts Trauma Response Seminar: ...

Health & Wellness

Sun, February 25

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: Volunteer Art Show!

Arts & Entertainment Green

I've Always Wanted to be a Doctor...Or an English Teacher

Think about the impossibility of the task we lay in front of high school students.  In addition to getting good grades, filling up a resume, finding the right colleges and writing countless admissions essays they also need to decide on their life’s passion at 17 years old...or do they?

As a college admissions representative the first question most students would ask me was whether ...

Now That The Dust Has Settled…Smart Tax Moves In 2018

Now that the dust has settled, here are some smart tax moves to lower your taxes and/or avoid higher taxes/penalties in 2018. These steps may be especially helpful if you live in high property and high income tax states (e.g. New Jersey, New York, California) since state and local tax deductions are capped.  Unfortunately all these changes mean you’ll need more time and energy to ...