MONTVILLE, NJ – A multi-year study of the scheduling at Lazar Middle School has resulted in a preliminary plan which was presented by Principal Michael Pasciuto at the Jan. 21 Board of Education meeting.
The process began with assessing what stakeholders liked, needed and wanted, Pasciuto said. Research involved forming a committee, surveying teachers, counselors and administrators, and visiting five other schools to assess their systems. Pasciuto and his committee also met with teachers, students and parent-teacher council members, with the goal of creating the most efficient yet effective master schedule for the school.
Unfortunately, speaking to other schools – 26 of them in total – was apples to oranges at times, Pasciuto said, because they often had only two grades in their middle school, or they had multiple cafeterias or gyms to aid in their flexibility.
Some changes were made immediately for the 2018-2019 school year, including implementing a lunch period by grade level, making English classes back-to-back, and increasing the availability of electives, he said.
This school year, changes have included adding a popular dance class to the 8th grade curriculum, reducing class size for the basic skills students (those who need more help but don’t qualify for special education), and after-school support programs in math and English.
The plan for the 2020-2021 school year includes enhanced academic support for special education students in order to keep them organized and have a teacher to liaise with parents and case managers, adding after-school sessions in social studies, world language and science to the current after-school sessions, and a reduction of special education-general education class sizes and ratios so all students benefit.
Three more site visits are planned as a mentorship program is being explored, and Pasciuto admitted that scheduling changes could affect the large music program the school has.
“[But] we want to protect all the things we’ve accomplished in the last few years,” he said.
With the lower grades much smaller than the current grades at Lazar, Pasciuto said they are hesitant about making large changes because they don’t know if the sizes will change by the time they reach the middle school. Currently there are 294 sixth graders, 287 seventh graders and 291 eighth graders at the school, but only 228 current third, 220 fourth and 266 fifth graders in the district.
Pasciuto also said that making the changes incrementally was designed to positively influence the climate and culture of the school and reduce stress to the students.
Changes will be made over the next two years and then the team will reassess the schedule, he said.
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